More than 60% of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease will have a decline in some type of visual capacity, with the most common being motion blindness, depth perception, color perception, and contrast sensitivity1. Recognizing that a person’s behaviors may be impacted by their ability to see and understand their surroundings can be very beneficial for caregivers. Making changes in lighting, colors, and glare may be impactful for Alzheimer’s patients and reduce their difficulties with activities of daily living (ADL). Here is a list of simple changes you can make at home to try and help a person experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms:
1. Start each morning with freshly cleaned glasses if the person in your life with Alzheimer’s wears them. Dirty glasses hinder the ability to see things clearly, and the last thing needed is to make vision more difficult for a person already experiencing reduced vision.
2. Keep a spare pair of glasses in the cabinet, so they can be grabbed if the main pair your loved one wears get misplaced. Also, finding a nice eyeglasses chain that hooks to the each end of the glasses may be useful. These are great because when you take off your glasses they can just hang around your neck like a necklace, making the glasses much less likely to be misplaced.
3. The color red is easier to see for many as vision declines. Use the color red to highlight items that you want to stand-out to the Alzheimer’s patient1. For example, choosing a red phone case may make it easier for someone with Alzheimer’s to see the phone. Other common items that often get misplaced or overlooked and therefore you may want to consider getting in red may include, a water glass, tea cup, glasses, toothbrush, key chain or key covers, and a purse.
4. Try to make sure the walls and floors are not the same color. If they are, then paint the trim along the floor a contrasting color so one can easily identify where the wall ends and the floor begins1,2. Also, consider the same for door trim, walls and ceilings for tall individuals. If you are tall and have difficulty discerning the separation, it may feel like you are going to hit your head on the ceiling when walking through a door frame or someone may misinterpret the door frame as the ceiling and bump their head. Either scenario can be a source of anxiety and frustration. Finally, avoid monochromatic decorating schemes, such as an all-white bathroom. A white toilet will be hard for some people with Alzheimer’s to identify if the floor and walls are also white, resulting in bathroom issues.
5. Reduce glare in a room by pulling down shades, covering glass surfaces, and increasing the wattage in light bulbs1. Also, light colored walls will still keep a room bright, but will have less glare than pure white walls2.
6. Place rugs in front of doors and steps that are a different color to help people anticipate the stairs and entrances1. Outdoor concrete steps can be especially difficult due to the gray color and shadows from the sun. Try painting the lip of the step a bright, contrasting color like yellow.
7. Avoid visually busy patterns for walls, floors, or furniture2. While contrasting black and white tiled floors or herring bone pattern wood or tile floors are popular design trends, they can be very visually busy and may cause great difficulty for someone experiencing some of the visual changes that sometimes accompany Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Provide visual landmarks in a room that you do not move or change. For example, a large sofa in a specified location can be helpful. People become accustomed to its presence and location and it can serve as a home base to navigate the rest of the room from.
9. Turn on extra lights, especially during the night time3. Having night lights in the hall and bathrooms may be helpful as well. You can also get motion sensor lights to install under cabinets. We have these in our bathroom, which are activated as soon as you walk through the bathroom door. They are brighter than a night light, but dimmer than an overhead light. Therefore, providing enough light to get to the restroom without the visual shock of an overhead light, which for some can be enough stimulation to make falling back to sleep difficult. The other great part of the motion sensor lights is they turn off automatically after a few minutes, so you don’t need to worry about your partner leaving the bathroom light on all night.
10. See an eye doctor annually. There are many vision problems that can happen as we age that are mistaken for signs of dementia getting worse, but actually are actually correctable vision issues that are not related to brain health.3 Keeping up on eye exams can help to identify treatable vision issues and reduce unnecessary frustration for both the Alzheimer’s patient and caregiver.
Written by Marci L. Hardy, PhD
- Alzheimer’s Association. Vision Problems Associated with Alzheimer’s disease. www.alz.org/centralohio/doc . Accessed on May 1, 2017.
- VisionAwareTM. Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.visionaware.org/info/for-seniors/health-and-aging/vision-loss-and-the-challenges-of-aging/alzheimers-disease/1235 . Accessed on May 1, 2017.
- Caring.com 6 Vision-Boosting Tips for Someone with Dementia. https://www.caring.com/articles/6-vision-boosting-tips-for-someone-with-dementia . Accessed on May 1, 2107.
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