When people think of dementia it is often memory and cognitive difficulties that first come to mind, but there are many side effects to this disease – one of which is deteriorating vision. This is because our perception of what we see is determined by our minds. Information goes to our brains through our eyes and is understood through thoughts and recognition through memory. If our brains are not fully functional, then our vision will be disrupted in some way.
There are many different stages of seeing, which means that faulty ‘perception can occur anywhere along those processing lines.
The two most common problems that occur are misperceptions, which are defined by a person mistaking what they see for something else, for example a shiny floor as a puddle of water, or a coat rack as a person. The other is misidentifications this is when a person has difficulty identifying people or objects, for example identifying a sister as a mother or a jug as a kettle.
When a person with dementia has either one of these disorders, they will often be mistaken for being ‘delusional’, when in fact it is not caused by diminished thinking skills, but rather poor vision.
Other visuoperceptual difficulties may occur depending on the type of dementia a person may have.
These may include, among others;
- Being unable to differentiate between foreground and background, colour contrasts like black and white, as well as not being able to tell different colours apart
- Problems directing a persons gaze or changing it
- Being unable to recognise or identify faces and objects
- Experiencing double vision
- A distorted field of vision
- Not being able to detect movement
Often a person will require a fair amount of additional support in order to adapt to visual disabilities. There are certainly ways to help, such as putting up handrails in certain places to improve stability.
It is best to try not to disrupt a persons living space too much as this can cause additional confusion and possible injury.