Jane Bates: Sound and vision can help with dementia

The sensory losses that can come with age have a big impact on mental health

The sensory losses that can come with age have a big impact on mental health

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‘It was awful,’ said a friend, who had just had her cataracts removed. ‘I was frightened to leave the house. I even stopped walking because I couldn’t judge where my feet were going.’

Now she can see again post-op she has her bounce back, which I have seen with patients before. The psychological boost they receive from improved clarity of vision is substantial, even if they have ocular co-morbidities. Cataracts make vision dull as well as blurry and removal quite literally lets there be light.

Impact on mental health

Two recent studies, carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester, suggest that visual improvement and the correction of hearing loss have a significant impact on older folk’s mental health.   

So much so that cataract surgery and the wearing of hearing aids can slow down and – in some cases – even reverse cognitive decline. Isn’t that fascinating?

But it also poses a challenge for health professionals as people are often reluctant to get help with their sight or hearing – eye operations are scary and hearing aids can seem a faff too far, even embarrassing for some.

Maintaining connections

Old age is all about dealing with loss – of our status, our relevance as the world changes, our mobility and our memory. But it is the loss of these senses that is felt so acutely – not only do they keep us safe, they bring us joy.

No wonder loss affects our mental well-being. It is incumbent upon us as nurses to encourage older people to get help for their hearing and sight, enabling them to maintain connections with others and give life texture.

By supporting them in this way we may be able lessen the heartbreak of dementia and its devastating impact on the immediate family and wider society.

    Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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