When most people hear the term “dementia,” they often equate the disorder with memory loss. However, the disease processes that cause the cognitive-impairing ailment affect many regions of the brain, including those that control vision. The types of visual disturbances seniors experience depend on the underlying type of dementia.
Posterior Cortical Atrophy
This term refers to neuronal damage occurring in the occipital, or rear, area of the brain. The damage may develop secondary to the protein tangles associated with Alzheimer’s. The disorder might also begin as a result of Lewy body dementia, and the virus known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is another possible factor. The visual symptoms associated with posterior cortical atrophy vary from one individual to the next and from one disease process to the next. The definitive underlying cause cannot be determined until a postmortem examination reveals the reason for the nerve damage.
Vision impairment resulting from dementia may make it difficult for seniors to complete everyday tasks on their own. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elder care families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Alzheimer’s generally initially affects the hippocampus, which is responsible for short-term memory and learning. However, as the damage extends throughout the brain, visual impairment commonly develops. When the nerves regulating eye movement become involved, spastic eye movements similar to astigmatism occur, which leads to eye fatigue when reading or engaging in other activities requiring focused sight. Peripheral vision may weaken, which increases the likelihood of falls, as seniors are no longer able to see obstacles that aren’t in their direct line of view.
Older adults with Alzheimer’s often display an inability to differentiate between similar shades of colors. For this reason, their depth perception becomes skewed, and they cannot tell the difference in depth between a sidewalk and a curb or between one step and another. To the senior, both depths are the same color, so the brain doesn’t interpret the height difference.
On the other hand, extremely contrasting colors also cause confusion. For example, a floor with both dark and light surfaces is often interpreted as having different depths. The dark areas might be considered depressions or holes in the surface.
The visual disturbances may also include hallucinations in the advanced stage of the disease. Complicated patterns or moving shadows are misinterpreted by the brain, which leads seniors with Alzheimer’s to believe they’re seeing something that isn’t there.
Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Clearwater Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia occurs when the brain cannot metabolize alpha-synuclein proteins, leading to abnormal aggregates of these proteins, called Lewy bodies, in the brain. As the proteins accumulate, symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s develop. Lewy bodies often affect the visual, auditory, and olfactory senses in the brain. The damaged nerves are then no longer able to correctly interpret external stimuli. In an effort to analyze the data, misinterpretation occurs, and the senior with dementia experiences hallucinations. Seniors may see people and objects that aren’t there, carry on conversations with unseen people, or become fearful when seeing a perceived infestation of insects or other pests.
Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Clearwater families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. To schedule a free in-home consultation, give us a call at (727) 330-7862 today.