The signs of dementia and sight loss can often overlap, so when someone has dementia, deteriorating eyesight can go unnoticed and mistaken for the signs of dementia worsening. If sight loss is a contributing factor and can be corrected, it can make a real difference and improve the person’s quality of life.
We’ll guide you on how to spot the signs, and what to do next if you suspect that someone is losing their sight.
How common is sight loss and dementia?
Around 123,000 people in the UK (RNIB) are known to have both sight loss and dementia although, because the signs of the two conditions often overlap, it can be difficult to determine just how prevalent sight loss is in people with dementia.
In a recent study, nearly one third of people living at home with dementia were classed as having a visual impairment (PrOVIDe). Of this group, half then had their vision corrected or improved with correct refraction and glasses, and the remaining half were diagnosed with cataracts – a common condition where the lens in the eye becomes cloudy, which can easily be corrected in a procedure that takes just 30 to 45 minutes.
Why is it important?
For those with dementia, sight loss can increase social isolation, add to confusion, further increase the likelihood of falls and trips, and reduce quality of life.
If sight loss is found and corrected, the signs of dementia may reduce – for instance, it may increase someone’s confidence to go out and about on their own, or they may be able to get the assistive equipment they need like magnifiers, to enable them to do more things independently.
That’s why it is so important to make sure you always ask yourself – could this be a sign of sight loss?
Henshaws have put together a series of information booklets about Dementia and Sight Loss which you can download here
Five signs that someone might have sight loss and dementia
- The person is stumbling and tripping more often, or walking into things more frequently
- They’re avoiding or struggling with simple chores, for example leaving unopened mail around, or not washing the dishes
- They seem more anxious about going out, and seem less confident when out on their own, such as having trouble reading signposts to find where they are
- They’re finding it difficult to recognise familiar faces, or only recognise people once they’ve started speaking
- They are experiencing hallucinations or visions. Experiencing hallucinations can be caused by dementia, but also could be a sign of sight loss – around 60% of people with sight loss will experience hallucinations as a result of Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition that causes vivid hallucinations. You can read more about the condition on our blog here, and you can find out more about dementia related hallucinations on the Alzeimer’s Society website.
Remember to always ask yourself – could this be a sign of sight loss?
What to do if you suspect someone has sight loss and dementia
Firstly, check that the person’s glasses are Clean, Current and Correct (the 3 c’s). Something as simple as having glasses that are dirty or have an expired prescription can really affect vision, and impact the person’s confidence and independence.
You may need to visit your local opticians for a sight test. Sight tests are recommended to be taken every two years, and over 80% of a sight test can be completed on someone who has dementia. Depending on where you live, sight tests for people with dementia can even now be completed at home. Visit the Community Care Opticians website for more information to check your eligibility.
Make sure to get in touch with Henshaws to receive more information and support on dementia and sight loss. We’ve put together a training package and our top tips, trick and tech on communicating with someone who’s visually impaired, making your home sight loss and dementia friendly, and the best technology to help enable the person to live their life to the full. We’re providing this in Wigan in partnership with Wigan Council’s The Deal, and in Liverpool in partnership with Everton in the Community – get in touch on 0300 222 5555 or email [email protected] to find out more.