10 Facts About Cataracts that Family Caregivers Should Know

Each year, millions of elderly adults receive a diagnosis of cataracts in one or both eyes. Cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness in aging adults. There’s no doubt that such a diagnosis can affect how an aging adult and their family caregiver plan to live, both in the short-term and long-term.

The causes, treatments and long-term effects of cataracts are often not clearly understood by family caregivers. Here are 10 facts about cataracts that family caregivers should know about, so they can be informed when making life-changing decisions on their aging loved one’s behalf.

  1. The eye disease is most common in seniors who are over 60 years old who smoke and have a family history of the condition. Other risk factors include other eye disease like glaucoma and other chronic health conditions like diabetes.
  2. Cataracts form when the clear lens in the eye grows cloudy. They start out slow to grow, but eventually reach a point where the aging adult’s vision is completely obstructed. It may be years before total blindness occurs, giving family caregivers and seniors time to make serious plans.
  3. Symptoms of cataracts include seeing spots, blurry vision, double vision, sensitivity to light, poor night vision, dulling colors and seeing halos around light sources.
  4. Eye doctors can detect cataracts in the early stage via a comprehensive eye exam that includes a vision test, dilated eyes and instruments that measure eye pressure. They will also examine the retina and optic nerve for damages.
  5. Although there is no cure for cataracts, doctors may be able to slow their development via medicated eye drops and prescribing special glasses that help protect the eyes. At some point, they will discuss surgery to remove the damaged lens and replace it with a clear artificial one.
  6. Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that often restores a lot of vision for seniors who get it. While every surgery involves risk, cataract surgery is quite common. The decision to have cataract surgery is between the eye doctor, the elderly adult and the family caregiver.
  7. Seniors with cataracts usually reach a point where they cannot live independently due to vision loss. Cataracts prevent them from doing daily tasks such as reading, cooking, cleaning, dressing, recognizing faces, driving and more. Many families hire elderly care providers to give in-home assistance.
  8. Often, aging adults that have cataracts also have other age-related eye diseases, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. Doctors will outline a treatment plan to address all eye issues in hopes of preserving as much vision as possible.
  9. Besides elderly care providers, seniors can take advantage of many low vision products and services such as magnifying lamps, scanning pens, digital magnifiers, large print books and more. Anything the aging adult cannot read well, such as prescription bottles, bills and recipes, can be done by the elderly care provider for safety and comfort.
  10. Cataracts are life-changing for seniors, but with a strong support network of eye doctors, family caregivers, elderly care providers, friends and community, they can continue to live well and find fulfillment and success.


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