caring for the elderlyAge-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eyesight condition which develops as people age and is most often seen in people aged over 65, although it is also increasingly developed by those in their 40s and 50s.

Left untreated the disease can leave sufferers partially blinded, leading to complete vision loss. Everyday tasks around the home like cooking, cleaning, and dressing, as well as attending essential doctor appointments become difficult or impossible, meaning that many AMD sufferers need help from family or paid carers.

Depression among carers

Recent studies into the wider effects of AMD have also shown that those affected often show symptoms linked with depression, with one in nine suffering from the condition. Furthermore these studies have also displayed that the heavy burden of assisting those with AMD causes an equally high rate of depression within carers.

“So many carers feel the constant worry about accidents and falls, the continuous need to stay positive, and the relentless amounts of patience, tolerance and understanding they need every day,” says Julie Heraghty, CEO of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia. “It’s a side of caring that many just don’t see.”

The research has also found that carers for those effected by AMD are commonly family members, who make up 48% of AMD carers, and that around two thirds of all carers also suffer from a serious illness themselves. Often caring for those with AMD leads a person to put their own lives on hold and it has been found that 40% of carers with an illness report that being a carer impacts their ability to manage their own health.

“The ripple effect of vision loss beyond the individual is extensive. The majority of the time spouses are bearing the brunt, with the flow on effects impacting the carer’s family, the community and the healthcare system,” adds Ms. Heraghty.

MPS II – your insurance policy against sight loss

It is estimated that 100 people in the UK begin to loss their sight each day, and that 50% of those affected by AMD do not seek medical advice until the condition’s later stages. It is believed that not seeking an eye-care professional is largely due to the misconception that vision loss is part of old age.

However as outlined in the recent Wall Street Journal article The Crucial Years for Protecting Your Eye Health, vision problems could be occurring in people in their forties.

In order to reduce the number of people with advanced AMD, and the burdens that the disease places on family and friends, it essential that everyone has regular eye exams. By testing with the MPS II macular pigment screener optometrists are now able to get accurate pigment readings within 90 seconds. This quick test could result in saving a patient’s eyesight, as well as insure against the impact of advanced AMD on those close to that person.

Despite the strain that caring for an AMD sufferer may place on a family or friend the National Eye Institute (NEI) urges those effected not to feel guilty as they are extremely valuable sources of support. Instead the NEI suggests alleviating the strain on both sides by participating in local support groups and having professional counselling to combat the effects of depression.

The NEI also suggests these methods to ensure the affected take control over their eye disease:

  • Learn more about AMD and vision loss
  • Understand that the affected and those around them are grieving
  • Visit a specialist to learn skills and find devices to assist with everyday living
  • Try to stay positive. Those who remain hopeful are recorded as saying they are better able to cope with their own or a loved one’s vision loss.

More information

For more details about  AMD visit the RNIB website.

Find out more about the MPS II.

If you are already suffering from AMD seek advice from your optician and ask for AREDS supplements which can prevent the disease’s progression.

[Picture Credit: Australian Medical Association]

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