Vision loss in the elderly

Posted July 17, 2014 at 11:21 am

by Faith Trussell, RN, BSN, Program Director, Senior Life Solutions

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States. AMD causes damage to the macula, a spot near the center of the retina that is needed for sharp, straight-ahead vision. As the disease progresses, it causes a blurred area in the center of vision, which leads to difficulty with everyday activities such as driving, reading, writing, watching TV, cooking, and doing housework as well as participating in favorite hobbies. Activities that one used to enjoy begin to seem impossible. With the loss of the ability to drive and navigate unfamiliar places, it becomes easier to stay at home than to see friends or do new things.

All of this takes a major toll on one’s mental health, and depression is consequently a common risk for people who have vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Since the depression is a response to a disability, the most effective treatment is to reduce the disability, through rehabilitation focused on re-engaging in the activities the person once enjoyed. Studies show that individuals with AMD who received therapy to assist them in staying active reduced their risk of depression by 60%.

If you have macular degeneration, talk to your doctor about seeing an occupational therapist who can guide you on using low-vision devices, making changes around the home, increasing social activities, and helping you set goals and break them down into manageable steps. Seeing a mental health professional may also be helpful if you are experiencing depression as a result of your vision loss.

Note: This column is provided by Senior Life Solutions, a program at Cedar County Memorial Hospital dedicated to addressing the emotional health of senior adults. Call 417-876-3656 for more information.