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Eye Injuries: Is Your Aging Loved One at Risk?
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on October 13th, 2015

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Eye Injuries: Is Your Aging Loved One at Risk?

Aging & Caregiving

eye-injuries-is-your-aging-loved-one-at-riskDeclines in eye health can have a tremendous impact on quality of life for older adults. But age-related issues are far from the only concern when it comes to safeguarding senior vision. October’s “Eye Injury Prevention Month” offers the perfect opportunity for caregivers to think about some lesser-known threats to senior vision, along with tips for protecting your aging loved one’s ongoing eye health.

Eye Injuries at Home

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has designated the entire month of October for raising awareness about eye injuries. While workplace accidents may first come to mind when you think of threats to eye health, the fact is that many eye injuries often occur at home.

Consider the following statistics from the Eye Injury Snapshot, a survey conducted jointly by the AAO and the American Society of Ocular Trauma. More than 40 percent of eye injuries happen during home activities, including everything from cooking and cleaning to yard work and home repairs. Meanwhile, more than a third of domestic eye injuries happen in everyday living spaces, including the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living room, and family room. As many as 90 percent of these injuries are preventable simply by wearing proper protective eyewear. And while it may not seem like eye injuries are a real threat for older adults, declining vision can contribute to many complications with eye health.

Recognizing and Responding to Eye Injuries

Eye injuries (and infections) can lead to serious vision loss if left untreated, which is why it is critical to seek prompt medical attention. Signs that an eye injury may have occurred include pain or trouble seeing; a torn or cut eyelid; difficulty with eye movement; a protruding eye; a change in pupil size or shape; blood in the clear part of the eye; and the feeling that something is stuck in or under the eye.

If your aging loved one experiences any of these symptoms, do not attempt to treat it yourself. Instead, contact his doctor immediately for advice regarding how to proceed. (In the case of chemical burns, first flush with clean water before seeking treatment.)

Eye Injury Prevention Tips

In addition to making sure your aging loved one owns and wears protective eyewear during potentially dangerous home tasks or projects, these four safety steps can also go a long way to helping to prevent senior eye injuries.

1. Use caution when cleaning.

Common household products cause more than 125,000 eye injuries annually. Advise your aging loved one to use caution when cleaning with hazardous products, such as bleach and oven cleaner. Or better yet, swap out harsh chemicals with natural or organic cleaning agents. If mom or dad is still at risk, enlist the help of a family member or home health aide to assist with cleaning tasks so your loved one doesn’t have to worry about household chores.

2. Make sure items are clearly labeled.

As vision fades, reading labels can become quite a challenge. Offer help by re-labeling containers with large print. Large print words written with a dark permanent marker can be read a bit more easily than the fine print that is often seen on cleaners, health and beauty aids, and other items. Also be sure that anything under the sink or stashed away in the cabinet has an appropriate label and is clearly marked.

3. Assess the physical environment.

Fall hazards can also lead to eye injuries. If your loved one is living at home, take a moment and check to make sure all rugs and railings are secured. Soften sharp edges on furniture and fixtures by adding cushioning. In the kitchen, consider investing in grease shields to protect sensitive eyes from grease spatter in the kitchen. Don’t forget the garage - be sure items are stored safely with adequate lighting.

4. Beware of outdoor hazards.

Take a look outdoors and make sure walkways are clear and free of overhead hazards. Branches or bushes that hang in the line of sight should be kept neatly trimmed.  If your aging loved one still enjoys doing yard work, help clear away small debris which can quickly turn into a projectile.

While even the most stringent safety measures cannot prevent all eye injuries from occurring, taking a few simple precautions can vastly decrease the chances of your aging loved one sustaining a painful or life-changing eye injury.

Key Takeaways

  • Eye injuries can represent a very real threat to senior health.

  • Protective eyewear is essential when it comes to heading off eye injuries in the home and yard.

  • Caregivers can help safeguard the eye health of their aging loved ones by taking a few simple, preventative measures

Keeping your loved one's needs in mind when choosing a senior living community is important. Our Essential Touring guide is here to help you ask the right questions when touring a community.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.