Dementia and sight loss

If you have dementia and sight loss, we can point you in the direction of services, to make life easier. We also have  a guide for your family, friends and carers, so that they can better understand your needs.

Causes of sight loss among people with dementia

Many people in the UK have dementia and serious sight loss, so you are not alone. Most of them are over 65. Sight loss among people with dementia can be caused by:

  • an eye condition, such as cataract
  • another health condition, such as stroke
  • normal ageing of the eye
  • the dementia itself

Useful tips for coping with dementia and sight loss

Get regular eye tests

Eye examinations are especially important for people with dementia because the symptoms of dementia may mask the symptoms of sight loss. If you have dementia, additional sight loss may also increase your risk of falls or sense of disorientation. We recommend that people have regular eye examinations. Sight tests every two years are free if you are over the age of 60. If you are over the age of 70 they are free annually. In Scotland sight tests are free for all ages, and over 60s are seen annually. An eye examination will check your vision, to ensure you have the correct glasses, as well as your eye health.

Make the most of your sight

  • Make things bigger (such as using clocks and watches with large numbers)
  • Make things brighter (by using good lighting)
  • Make things bolder (use contrasting backgrounds)

Label your glasses

Wearing the correct glasses for the task at hand is also really important but identifying the right glasses for reading or watching the television can be difficult when you have dementia. Try labelling them and having different frames to make identifying them easer, this also supports others to help you. Always label the glasses rather than cases.

Adapt your environment

  • Make sure you have good, even, internal and external lighting
  • Use contrasting colours for floors, walls and furniture
  • Make sure tablecloths and mats contrast with crockery
  • Mark the beginning and ends of stairs and steps, using different texture or colours

Consider is it easier to find dark chocolate in a brown box or a white box? Or is it easier to find white towels or blue towels in an all white bathroom?

Get the gadgets

Specialist gadgets are available to support your everyday activities, such as clear faced clocks and watches, easy to use remote controls for TVs, big button phones, talking labels to stick to things.

Accessible activities

Here are some specialist services that can make things easier for you to do what you enjoy:

  • Talking newspapers and magazines - We all know how important it is in our day-to-day lives to read newspapers, magazines, periodicals and other sources of information, so we aim to ensure that all these materials continue to be available to those that want them.
  • Talking book service - Continue your love of reading and choose from the largest collection of unabridged audio books in the UK. We have a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles.
  • Audio description on TV - Do you have difficulty following the plot or story line of a TV program? If so you may find that audio description can assist you. Like a narrator telling a story, an additional commentary describes body language, expressions and movements, making the story clear through sound.
  • Art galleries, museums and theatres - Many of the thousands of museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK have services to make a visit more enjoyable for blind and partially sighted visitors.
  • Much loved games and puzzles are also available in accessible forms such as large print scrabble. There are also talking crosswords, sudoku, dominoes and draughts available for your computer.

Advice for your family, friends and carers

There are also a number of things that it can be useful for you or your family, friends, carers or health care professionals to know. Below you can find a document written by the Dementia and Sight loss interest group which will answer many of those questions. It covers the above tips in more detail, and includes information on the link between dementia and sight loss, hallucinations, and more.

Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group

The Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group was set up in 2008 as part of Vision 2020 UK, to develop and promote better understanding of the issues facing people affected by dementia and sight loss. It is also there to develop and disseminate materials resources and tools that contribute to good practice. The group consists of Alzheimer's Society, Thomas Pocklington, RNIB, ARUP and the Macular Disease Society.

The Vision 2020 UK website contains information to support the growing number of organisations and individuals with an interest in concurrent dementia and sight loss and creates a community of practice meeting place. To become part of the network go to the Vision 2020 UK Interest/work groups and committees page and create a log in and you can sign up to the Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group.

RNIB's work on dementia and sight loss has been supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

We're here to help

Our Helpline is your direct line to the support, advice, and products you need to face the future with confidence. If you or someone you know has a sight problem, our specialist advice workers can help.

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