1. Our next Q&A session is on the topic of Christmas and dementia.This time we want our Q&A to involve our resident experts, you! Share tips and advice on navigating Christmas here in this thread.

    Pop by and post your questions or if you prefer you can email your question to us at talkingpoint@alzheimers.org.uk and we'll be happy to ask them on your behalf.
  1. Mandida

    Mandida Registered User

    Jan 11, 2016
    My mum is in the early stages of dementia.
    One of her worst problems at the moment is that she cannot see things.

    Physically her eyesight is not bad. We spent last summer going from optician to doctor to ophthalmologist to optician and all agreed that for her age, her eyesight is reasonable.

    But still she cannot see a kitchen utensil that is put slightly out of place, and item in a shop that has had a change of packaging, a bookmark that has fallen on the floor.
    It is really weird and jolly inconvenient. It seems her brain cannot process the information sent from her eyes.

    Have other people experienced this functional loss of vision in the people they care for?

    Is there anything that can be done about it?

    Is there anyway of helping to make things more 'visible'?

  2. 1mindy

    1mindy Registered User

    Jul 21, 2015
    My OH is the same. The optition said that with his new glasses he will only see well when the message from the eye gets to the brain when the signal is not working there is nothing glasses can do. I suspect this is what's happening with your mum.
  3. sleepless

    sleepless Registered User

    Feb 19, 2010
    The Sweet North
    She probably can see the items but cannot recognise them because of her dementia.
    Or it may be that if things are 'camouflaged', as in seen against a 'busy' surface like a patterned carpet, it is more difficult for her brain to process what she is seeing.
    It must be reassuring to know her eyesight is ok, but so sad she has this problem.
  4. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    I am sure I have seen a factsheet or information from the Alzheimer's Association about this, but am frustrated that I cannot find it. I will have another look for you.

    While I don't understand the neurology behind it, I do know that dementia can impact how people see, even if there isn't eye disease and their vision is corrected.

    One practical suggestion you might try is to increase lighting and use brighter lighting, and task lighting. Even with no disease process, we need more light as we age. I know that my mother (73 and Alzheimer's) is resistant to this, so I just turn lights on for her over her mild protests. (I always say that I can't see or need more light, not that it's for her, and often she will accept this.)

    I have heard people here report various strategies such as using more or less color contrast for some objects (I believe I read about a bright red toilet seat?). I also know that with some types of dementia, patterns can cause distress, so that might be something to be aware of. Reflections and shadows can also interfere with "seeing" things, and can be distressing.

    I will keep looking for a link to some better information for you.
  5. RedLou

    RedLou Registered User

    Jul 30, 2014
    My OH gives workshops to PWD. It's relatively common for eyesight problems to occur - either not seeing three dimensions in the same way or even something someone is working on suddenly 'disappearing' from their view.
  6. alypaly

    alypaly Registered User

    Nov 7, 2014
    I can't post the link for some reason but if you look at the Teepa Snow youtube video on sight it explains exactly whats happening to their vision. - Maybe someone else can post the link

    This video was a revelation to me as my mother was experiencing exactly what you describe.
  7. tre

    tre Registered User

    Sep 23, 2008
    My husband had posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) which is often referred to as a visual variant of ALzheimers. This is quite a rare condition. The current estimate is around 500 people in UK have this. Our GP had never seen it before. There was no problem with my husband's eyes but the problem was in the processing of the visual information in the brain. In the early stages he would sometimes get into the back seat of the car, rather than the front passenger seat, pick up someone else's cup from the table when his own was right in front of him and when he could still type letters the spacing went all awry.
    It might be worth your looking at the PCA support group website at www.pcasupport.ucl.ac.uk to see if any of your mum's difficulties are similar. If that is the case then you will find some useful tips which are counterintuitive for example sufferers with PCA find it harder to read large print than small print.
  8. Mrsbusy

    Mrsbusy Registered User

    Aug 15, 2015
    Just read the PCs support item suggested, thank you, very informative and describes my mums problems well. I think it's more common than it says though it's just as someone suggests doctors put it down to degenerative decline instead.

    Thanks again.
  9. LynneMcV

    LynneMcV Volunteer Moderator

    May 9, 2012
    south-east London
    I think variations of 'not being able to see things' are evident in many forms of dementia.

    My husband has experienced similar.

    I find it helps to a certain degree if I can keep surfaces as clutter free as possible - the more things around, the less likely his brain is able to process information when looking for one particular item even if it is glaringly obvious to everyone else.

    Changes to packaging is the worst. We have experienced this with a variety of changes to packaging for his medication. Even when the drawer contained nothing but his box of tablets he could not 'see' it there. That was in the earlier stages of his disease when he was able to self-administer his medication. In the end I removed all packaging and put the medication in a clear pill dispenser, which worked ok until the colour of the tablets also changed and he could not see/recognise them for what they were. I now have to physically put the tablets he needs in his hand before he can take them.

    He has trouble seeing his big size 10 trainers on the floor even if I put them within inches of him - yet remarkably he has the ability to spot, locate and deliver numerous specks of lint or fluff to me throughout the day as he makes his way around the house.

    He will also often go to pick up my cup by mistake even though mine is pink, covered in hearts and declares it's owner to be a 'special mum' and his bears the manly image of bull in recognition of his Taurus zodiac sign.

    So no, this isn't a visual problem to be sorted by an optician, but a visual problem brought about by interference in the way his brain processes information.
  10. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Lynne, thank you so much for your response. I have the same trouble with my mother in regards to packaging--she can't recognize that a package contains toilet rolls unless it's a particular brand and type and I dread what will happen when they eventually change it. I knew it was the dementia, but it still bothered me a great deal and hearing that others have experienced this, makes all the difference. Thank you.

    I will see if I can find the correct Teepa Snow video. Hold, please.
  11. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
  12. nae sporran

    nae sporran Volunteer Host

    Oct 29, 2014
    On the one hand it's reassuring to know it is the dementia, OH has the same problem with Vascular dementia, on the other it is frustrating if there is no solution. For our part I find that patient persistence does get a result most times in getting her to focus on the correct item eventually. best wishes all.
  13. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    There are all sorts of visual problems related to dementia.
    The signals arrive from the eyes to the visual cortex (at the back of the brain) and preliminary integration and sorting of these signals takes place. At this point colour and 3D is recognised. 3D interpretation is a common early casualty - lines in patterns can be seen as raised edges and black coloured patches are seen as holes. Too many colours are confusing.
    From here the signals are sent to various other places in the brain. There is an area beside the part of the brain which initiates movement, that deals with eye/hand co-ordination. Problems here result in things looks the wrong distance away, or there can be mirror reversal, even things looking upside down. People cant work out how high to lift their foot over a step - often making exaggerated movements, or alternatively, tripping over steps as they have underestimated the height. They may turn left instead of right and things do not appear to be in the right place, or appear to be constantly shifting.
    Another part of the brain deals with interpretation and recognition. They may not be able to interpret what they see, or even describe it - it just looks a mass of changing shapes and/or colours. They may be able to describe what they see, but not recognise it at all and may only be able to identify it by sound or touch. They may be able to recognise parts, but not the whole and misinterpret the whole thing - lampshades become heads, mirrors become another person
    Finally, there is linkage to the part of the brain that deals with emotional context (near the front) and here there is an emotional response triggered - eg you see your OH, recognise them, and it triggers a feeling of love. If this area is damaged, you recognise the person, but the lack of triggered emotion means that you feel that everything is strange and somehow different. They may feel that it is fake, or that there must be another one somewhere (that would give the right emotional response)
  14. Selinacroft

    Selinacroft Registered User

    Oct 10, 2015
    Interesting video clip. Dad is hopeless at poring a cup of tea from a teapot . Most of it ends up in the saucer. You can tell he has no accurate perception of distance.
  15. LynneMcV

    LynneMcV Volunteer Moderator

    May 9, 2012
    south-east London
    Amy, that is such a helpful video and I have certainly learnt something important and useful from it. Thank you so much for taking the time to find and post it here.
  16. CeliaW

    CeliaW Registered User

    Jan 29, 2009
    Excellent explanation canary, thank you.
  17. Bod

    Bod Registered User

    Aug 30, 2013

    Thanks everyone.
    This has given me an insight into what MiL is possibly going through.
    We have noticed her eyesight is altering, although the Alzheimer's is hardly progressing memory wise.
    The Youtube clip explains a great deal, as to her seeing steps that arn't there.

  18. jugglingmum

    jugglingmum Registered User

    Jan 5, 2014
    I noticed my mum couldn't 'see' the step out of my house very well so I insisted she use her stick at all times - the feedback from this seems to register even though the feedback from her eyes doesn't.

    Mum will only eat certain food in Sainsbury's packaging, although she accepts packaging with prominent pics of what is inside on. Think this is partly being able to work out quickly what things are or understanding familiar things.
  19. 2jays

    2jays Registered User

    Jun 4, 2010
    West Midlands
    Interesting.... Mum ditched her hearing aids ages ago, we guessed it was information overload when she wore them. She's now constantly taking her glasses off. As her prescription is -6 and -5.75 I was very insistent that the carers made sure she always had her glasses on.... Now I'm not sure that my insistence is doing mum any good :(

    Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point

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