June 22, 2012

If you have elderly loved ones, chances are that at some point, they’ll experience cataracts.

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and affect about half of people age 75 and older, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

A natural condition that develops over time, cataracts come on gradually. The biggest symptom of cataracts is vision loss that might manifest itself as blurred vision or glare.

Cataracts are a clouding that develops in the eye’s lens. In the early stages of symptoms, a cataract may cause nearsightedness. As the cataract grows, it may cause blurry images that appear yellowish or brownish. If untreated, cataracts can eventually cause blindness so it is very important to be aware of the signs of cataracts. Schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a check-up and monitor any change in vision.

The most common treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery. Over 1 million procedures are performed annually, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Cataract surgery is usually a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Typically, someone is considered a candidate for cataract surgery when her vision loss interferes with her daily life. Talk to an Ophthalmologist to determine if surgery is the right option for your loved one.

How to Help Someone with Cataracts

Vision loss can make getting around difficult. If you have a loved one with cataracts, here a few things you can do to improve her quality of life:

Around the house: Tasks around the house might become difficult for someone whose vision is impaired. Find out which tasks are most difficult, and offer to help with them. Laundry, taking out the trash, and other homemaking tasks are all things that become more difficult when dealing with cataracts and impaired vision.

Falling Hazards: Falls are a big risk to the elderly, and vision impairment can make them more likely. Prevent falls by cleaning up clutter around the house and being aware of potential hazards when out in public such as slippery walkways or uneven surfaces.

Driving: Your loved one may not be able to drive herself to run errands or visit friends. Help her out when you can, and ask other family members and friends to make themselves available as well.

Cleaning: Cleaning is a big job, and vision impairment makes it even more challenging. Help your loved one out by either hiring a cleaning service, or cleaning her house yourself.

Cooking: Cooking is not only difficult for someone who doesn’t see well, but it’s also dangerous. Cooking all your loved one’s meals is no small task, so you might consider a food delivery service or in-home care.

Support: Vision loss can be frightening and cause your loved one to feel isolated and lonely. Listen to her concerns and worries. Let her know that you’re there to help and how much you enjoy spending time with her.

Caring for someone whose vision is impaired can be time-intensive and demanding. If you’re concerned about  the amount of care or the time required for your loved one to be safe at home, consider an in-home caregiver. A caregiver can support your activities by doing the cleaning, cooking nutritious meals, preventing falls, and taking your loved one out for errands and social visits with friends. In-home care could prevent you from becoming strained, and your loved one from feeling like a burden.