Elder Care Blog

Cataracts and Aging Parents



My mother reads a lot, I mean like devouring a book at day is normal for her. So my siblings and I know that to give her books as gifts is a pretty safe bet. When I visited her at the beginning of the year, I saw the books piling up and she was using a book reading light in addition to a mega-watt reading lamp so we arranged for an eye exam. The doctor diagnosed her with cataracts in both eyes.

Cataracts cause more vision problems internationally than any other eye condition. They are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye which is normally clear. They can develop in one or both eyes and, if both, one will be worse than the other. The cloudy lens blocks light from passing through to the back of the eye, which allows us to see well-defined images. Seeing through a cataract is like looking fog. It’s frustrating and scary to think of living with impaired vision, especially when you’ve had good vision your entire life. In addition, vision impairment increases the risk of falling and accidents. Falls can be devastating for older adults. If they break a bone, especially a hip, or hit their head, the injury can change the trajectory of their life and severely impair the quality of life.

Here are some tips that can help improve vision in the short-term, if the cataracts are not too advanced:

  • Make sure your parent’s glasses are the accurate prescription;
  • Provide a stand-alone magnifying glass for reading;
  • Get brighter lights for the house, especially around stairs;
  • If your parent is still driving, ask them to refrain from driving at night, or stop all together until the cataract is removed.

However, these are only temporary measures – the cataracts will continue developing and will impair eyesight more. Fortunately, surgery can remove cataracts and restore vision; it is routine and usually safe. After care requires an eye guard and frequent eye drops. Usually, the surgery will be for one eye at a time. Eyesight in the treated eye will be clear right away.

Be aware that alpha-blockers, which are commonly used for urinary problems and hyper tension, may increase the difficulty of cataract surgery. Examples of an alpha-blockers are Flomax and Doxazosin. Make sure your parent’s doctor has an accurate medication list to be aware of any risks.