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What Your Loved One Might See When They Have Cataracts

Cataracts, a degenerative eye condition, can be frustrating for a senior. It may take away their enjoyment of favourite activities, reducing the joy they should be experiencing during their vintage years. 

As families, we can help by offering support to our elderly loved ones when cataracts impact their lives.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is an eye condition where the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, causing the person’s vision to become blurry or faded, similar to looking through a foggy windshield.

The lens is the part of our eye that helps us focus light or an image on the retina. The retina will then change the light into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. That’s how we see things.

As we age, proteins in the lens may clump together and start clouding our vision. This is the beginning of a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow bigger in size,, resulting in blurry vision.

Cataracts are very common as you get older, and can start to develop in our 40s and 50s. Once we reach our 60s, the vision problems they cause can become evident. Cataracts aren’t known to cause pain, but the degradation in vision can be frustrating. 

What your loved one might see when they have cataracts

As the cataract grows due to the lens’s clumping protein, the person’s eyesight becomes increasingly blurred. The clumps also reduce the amount of light that reaches the retina.

This cataract vision simulator demonstrates how crisp, clear vision can become blurred over time as the cataract grows in size. Although cataracts generally grow at a gradual pace, doctors cannot predict how fast they will develop.

As the lens ages, a senior’s vision may slowly acquire a brownish shade. The tint might not be noticeable at first, but over time it may become more difficult to enjoy routine activities such as reading, watching television, or doing puzzles.

There are other prominent symptoms to watch for when cataracts start to seriously affect an older adult’s vision.

Recognize the symptoms of cataracts 

Here are 6 of the more commons symptoms of cataracts to watch out for:

  1. Cloudy or blurred vision: Someone with cataracts may complain of foggy, filmy, or cloudy vision at any distance. Over time, as the cataract further develops, less light reaches the retina, causing eyesight to become blurred.
  1. Excessive glare: Cataracts can make your eyes sensitive to light, making headlights, lamps, or sunlight seem too bright. Indoor lights that never bothered you before may now appear glaring or have halos.
  1. Fading colours: Certain hues can appear faded when someone has cataracts. Their vision may gradually take on a brownish or yellowish tinge, and distinguishing blues and purples may become harder.
  1. Double vision (diplopia) in one eye: Cataracts can cause double vision when just using one eye. Double vision with both eyes is caused by the eyes not lining up correctly, and does not necessarily mean the person has cataracts.
  1. Frequent eyewear prescription changes: Cataracts get progressively worse over time. If your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is frequently changing, you might have cataracts.
  1. Second Sight: In some cases, a cataract will act as a more robust lens, a condition known as second sight. This will temporarily improve a person’s ability to see close up. They might find that they don’t need their reading glasses anymore, but don’t throw them away. As the cataract worsens, the second sight effect will go away, and vision will begin to degrade again.

These symptoms might also be caused by conditions other than cataracts. If any of the above symptoms arise, it’s best to seek advice from an eye care professional.

How to support an elderly loved one who has cataracts

Someone with cataracts may find themselves struggling to perform daily tasks or no longer enjoying activities that brought them joy because of poor vision. They may become frustrated if they don’t recognize people or objects, can’t move around their home with ease, or even venture outside with confidence.

Here are 6 ways you can support someone who has cataracts or is recovering from cataract surgery:

  1. Offer help with driving and errands: People with cataracts are often not comfortable driving, especially after dark when approaching headlights and streetlights can create a glare. It also gets increasingly difficult to see the road, street signs, other cars, and people walking as the cataract worsens. Offering to drive them to appointments and to run errands would be of great help.
  1. Assist with household duties: If the cataracts are severe, simple tasks like cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, and using the vacuum can become difficult. Helping the person around the house will keep them maintain a safe, healthy living environment. 
  1. Ensure they arrange eye exams: Encourage the person to make an appointment with their eye specialist every year. This will help ensure that their prescription is adjusted enough to manage vision loss and monitor the cataract’s progression. Their eye doctor can try to detect other potential eye conditions as early as possible.
  1. Remind them to wear sunglasses: Exposure to UV rays has been linked to cataracts and other degenerative eye diseases. Cataract progression can be slowed by wearing sunglasses, while keeping the eyes healthier for longer. A hat with a brim on sunny days can offer additional protection.
  1. Be available if they have cataract surgery: Driving the person to their cataract surgery and then home again afterward will be very helpful. You can also help them pick up eye drops and other post-operative medications, and keep them in an accessible place.
  1. Reorganize their living space: Preparing their sitting area with essential items will make things easier for someone with cataracts or recovering from cataract surgery. Prepare the home in advance for someone in recovery, as their ability to bend or lift heavy objects might be limited.

Get help caring for your loved one with cataracts  

Suppose you or your family aren’t always available to help an elderly loved one who has cataracts. In that case, you can hire a professional caregiver who will be happy to lend a hand with housekeeping, meal prep, and more.

At CareHop, we believe that every senior has the right to live independently and experience all the joy and sunshine they deserve. Our empathetic approach to elder care prioritizes your loved one’s needs and your family’s wishes to create a warm, supportive environment where older adults are cherished and well looked after.

If you have any questions about elder care or want to learn more about our customized senior care services, please reach out to us anytime. We’d be happy to speak with you!

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop, specializing in providing compassionate support for individuals and families touched by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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