Visual-Spatial Problems Commonly Associated with Dementia

By Patricia Schumacher, 9:00 am on

Seniors with dementia sometimes have visual-spatial difficulties, resulting in an inability to accurately distinguish between what’s actually there and what’s being seen by the eye and interpreted by the brain. For example, seniors with dementia may grab at the air because they perceive light coming in from the window as a moving object. Below are some of the more common visual-spatial issues sometimes experienced by older adults with dementia.

Motion Detection Issues

Some adults with advanced forms of dementia are unable to detect movement because of the way their brains are affected. Instead, they see the world around them as a series of still photographs. Having this particular visual-spatial problem could make it difficult to do anything involving motion, which could impact the ability to:

• Watch television comfortably
• Walk independently
• Get around safely without getting lost or confused

Depth Perception Problems

Age-related eye changes that often result in the formation of cataracts (cloudy eye lenses) could complicate issues with depth perception related to dementia. Even if cataracts aren’t a factor, depth perception issues could make it difficult to judge distances. Signs of this problem include noticeable difficulty with:

• Navigating steps
• Performing everyday tasks such as wiping off a table or counter
• Picking up objects

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elderly home care Rhode Island families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Reduced Peripheral Vision

Peripheral vision (the ability to see objects and movement outside the direct line of vision) naturally decreases with age. For individuals with dementia, this can be more significant. Peripheral vision loss may be mild at first and become more advanced in the later stages of dementia.

The inability to clearly make out what’s on either side could cause confusion, disorientation, and a tendency to bump into things. You might notice your loved one suddenly veering to avoid walking into doors or walls or bumping into pieces of furniture. He or she may also become easily startled. Because there are many reasons peripheral vision worsens in seniors, your loved one may be evaluated for:

• Glaucoma
• Retinal detachment
• A pituitary tumor
• A genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa (RP)

Object and Facial Recognition Issues

Visual-spatial problems sometimes cause seniors with dementia to have difficulty recognizing objects and people in front of them. Visual-spatial errors could make your loved one say strange things, or you may think he or she is having delusions when this isn’t the case at all. This type of damage involving the link between the eyes and the brain could also contribute to:

• Misperceptions
• Distortions of reality
• Misidentifications of people and objects

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Medication-Related Issues

Visual-spatial abilities that are affected by medication interactions or side effects may make it difficult for your loved one to recognize pathways or get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you believe medication issues could be throwing off your loved one’s visual-spatial abilities, talk to the doctor about:

• Adjusting medication dosages
• Checking for medication interactions
• Exploring options with alternative medications or nondrug treatments 

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Rhode Island families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. Home Care Assistance will work with you to customize a care plan that’s just right for your loved one’s needs. Call us today at (401) 284-0979 to discuss how we can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved one is being cared for with professionalism and compassion.