Vision and Dementia: Visual Misperception Stress and How to Help

by JFS Care
vision and dementia - dementia care santa monica ca
Senior adults with dementia can experience visual misperceptions that cause distress.

The complicated steps needed to enable us to see are mind-boggling. In the blink of an eye, our brains can easily take transmitted details on the world all around us, interpret that information based on input from other senses, memories, and thoughts, and then shape a perception of that information to help with making us aware of what we are seeing.

It’s no wonder that people with dementia can suffer from visual deficits and misperceptions, particularly in the aspects of: 

  • Depth and/or color perception 
  • Contrast 
  • Motion detection 
  • Peripheral vision 

Moreover, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from a distorted sense of reality in the form of illusions. As an example, an individual with changes in vision and dementia could see a shadow on the ground, and mistake it for something innocent, such as the family pet, or a danger, such as an intruder – which could present quite a challenge for family members. Some other examples of visual misperceptions in dementia can consist of: 

  • Misjudging reflections in glass or mirrors for another individual. This can cause distress in thinking another individual is there, or thinking that a bathroom mirror reflection means the restroom is already occupied by someone else.  
  • Thinking that images on TV shows are real and happening within the room. 
  • Problems with sitting in a chair or on the toilet, fearing a fall. 
  • Anxiety in overstimulating environments that causes confusion. 
  • Reaching for things that are not there, or missing the mark in attempting to grab an item. 
  • Troubles with self-feeding and drinking. 

Below are some strategies to help: 

  • Maintain sufficient lighting through the entire house, and remove any specific items that produce stress or visual confusion if at all possible.  
  • Use contrasting colors whenever possible, such as serving dark-colored soup in a light-colored bowl, or a fried egg on a blue plate. If possible, carry this idea through to home furnishings, with darker furniture on a light carpet, and different paint colors on trim vs. walls. 
  • Close blinds or curtains both at night and whenever the sun’s rays cause a glare.  
  • Take advantage of adaptive tools and advanced technologies such as remote controls and telephones with large buttons to provide the senior with adequate opportunities for independence. 
  • Confirm the senior has regular access to eye care, and notify the eye doctor of the senior’s dementia diagnosis.  

Professional dementia care in Santa Monica, CA and surrounding areas from JFS Care can help implement these strategies and so much more to lessen the effects of vision and dementia problems. Contact us or call (213) 383-2273 any time for additional information.