Cataracts and How a Caregiver Can Help
Cataracts are common among seniors. The treatment is regarded as one of the safest and most effective surgeries. Most patients acquire better vision afterwards and comment on the immediate improvement. Both my mother my and mother-in-law had cataract surgery and they were glad that they did. If you are caregiver for a senior who is scheduled for cataract surgery, there is a lot you can do to make the recovery time easier for the patient.
Why and When?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye and it is a normal aging process for people 60 years old and older. Patients with a cataract usually complain of blurry vision, poor night vision, or double vision. They might notice that colors seem faded or that lights seem bright and have a halo. It can affect driving, reading, watching TV and other daily activities. Cataracts can and should be removed to restore this loss of vision.
While having a cataract does not cause long-term damage to your vision, it does bring more risk to patients who already have mobility or cognition/dementia issues. Having a cataract could cause the patient to have a car accident. A senior could have a greater risk of falling simply because they do not see clearly. Cataract surgery is a solution which can prevents serious injury caused by poor vision.
Cataract surgery may also be necessary to treat another serious eye problem. According to the National Eye Institute, cataract can prevent the examination or treatment of problems, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy,
How can a caregiver help?
If you have been a caregiver like I have, you know that we’re just trying to help our elder loved-ones in any way we can. Large or small, we’re here to help. Be it putting on socks and shoes, preparing a meal or cleaning the house. Cataracts is one of those things we can’t fix. But we can still help.
First, a caregiver can help by driving the patient to the doctor’s office, or by accompanying them to the office on paid or public transportation. A person who has a cataract is not seeing well enough to be a careful driver. On the day of surgery, the caregiver should drive them to the surgical center, and back home after the surgery. Cataract surgery usually takes about an hour.
The caregiver should listen to the directions given to the patient about administering an eye drops medication, and be ready to assist the patient in administering the drops. The patient will need to wear an eye shield to protect that eye, and should avoid lying or sleeping in a position where the eye may be rubbed or pressed. The doctor should also be asked about when to start taking any other regular medications that the patient usually takes.
The patient should be resting after surgery that day. The caregiver could be ready to take care of household chores and meal preparation when the patient comes home. Patients are told not to bend over to the floor and not to lift heavy objects. Be available to position the patient’s shoes nearby on the bed or table so she can find them without bending over, and to do any lifting required for them.
Patients should be able to do the movements they are accustomed to doing independently, such as walking or climbing stairs. If the patient’s mobility requires the use of a cane, walker, or wheelchair, it might be best to supervise when they moves around at this time. When wearing an eye shield on one eye, the patient’s depth perception will be slightly affected, so some caution in movement is advised.
It would be helpful to schedule follow-up appointments and transportation to these appointments. The doctor will advise about use of the drops, eye shield or sunglasses then. Also, ask the doctor when the patient can resume driving (if they still drive). Usually, there are several follow-up appointments scheduled for a patient. In about eight weeks, the eye should be completely healed. The healing eye will need some time to adjust. If the patient is having surgery on both eyes for cataracts, the surgeries are usually scheduled about a month apart.
In most cases, cataract surgery improves vision to the patient. The patient will see color more clearly. They will probably need to get new eyeglasses if they are farsighted or nearsighted. They should wear sunglasses or a hat to protect their eyes in sunlight.
Everyone over 60 years of age should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. Exams and early treatment may save your sight, and good vision helps you to be more independent. For caregivers and cataract patients, cataract surgery can make a big difference in their quality of life.