Sight loss and dementia affect people in unique ways which influence their daily life;
According to DaSLIG, someone with dementia combined with sight loss can experience: profound disorientation and isolation; an increased risk of falls; difficulties moving between light and dark spaces; difficulties learning to use new equipment; less independence; and misperception and misidentification of people and things.
Yet often people don’t appreciate that someone is experiencing these difficulties, They think they’re reacting that way because they have dementia, and that’s simply not true. It can lead to: carers becoming particularly concerned about someone’s safety, putting restrictions on them; a risk of isolation; and loss of enjoyable activities.
Understanding what the world is like for someone with dementia and sight loss can help professionals better support them.
Find ways to make the most of someone’s existing sight
It’s vital to ensure someone with dementia and sight loss has glasses that are correct, current, and clean. “If they’re likely to lose them, try labelling them clearly for the task that they’re used for,” she says. “So, if it’s for television, they might be ‘seeing glasses’ or for reading, ‘reading glasses’.”
Adapting the environment the person lives in is also helpful this could include: making things bigger, such as having clocks and watches with large numbers; making things bolder, using contrasting colours and avoiding patterns on wallpaper or carpets; and making things brighter, using good lighting.
Make activities accessible
Getting outside is key to improving someone with dementia and sight loss’ quality of life. “You often see people who’ve got dementia who sleep during the day and are up and down like yo-yos at night. “This is because they are not getting enough ambient light. We need at least 30 minutes of natural light to reset our natural body clock and improve sleep patterns.”
Carers should be encouraged to make activities accessible for people with dementia and sight loss, rather than ruling them out.
misperceptions – The person sees one thing as something else.
For example, mistaking a coat hanging up for a person, or a blue coloured floor as water. misidentifications – damage to specific parts of the brain can lead to problems identifying specific objects and people. For example, mistaking a son for a husband or brother. It is easy to see how these mistakes may lead to the person with dementia saying or doing things that do not make sense to others. However, what they are experiencing is not a problem with thinking (it is not based on incorrect reasoning or ‘delusional thinking’). Instead, it is the result of damage to the visual system.
General tips Try not to make too many changes to the person’s environment (e.g. keep furniture and other items in the same place). This can help the person feel confident and reduce their fear of tripping or falling. Use colour. For example, having a different colour toilet seat to the bowl (e.g. a black toilet seat on a white toilet). A red plate on a white tablecloth is easier to see than a white plate. colour can also be used to highlight important objects and orientation points (e.g. the toilet door), or for camouflaging objects the person doesn’t need to use (e.g. light switches or doors). Improve lighting levels around the person’s home. This can reduce visual difficulties and help to prevent falls. Lighting should be even around the home and should minimise shadows – some people resist going near dark areas in corridors and rooms. Try to avoid ‘busy’ patterns (e.g. on the walls or floors) and changes in floor patterns or surfaces. They may be seen as an obstacle or barrier and the person may avoid walking in these areas. Reduce the risk of trips and falls by removing clutter and obstacles. Remove or replace mirrors and shiny surfaces if they cause problems. Close curtains or blinds at night. Consider assistive technology products such as automatic lights.