Changes in Vision and Spatial Awareness

Changes in vision and spatial awareness may be a warning sign of Alzheimer's disease

Like death and taxes, changes in our eyesight as we age is one of life’s inevitabilities. We will all go through that stage when our arms just aren’t long enough to read a book anymore without reading glasses. Where no matter how hard we squint we can’t decipher the lunch menu at the local café. These changes are completely normal and we just have to go through the process of juggling with multiple pairs of glasses after our 40s as our eyes begin to change, until somewhere in our 60s, my optometrist tells me, when our eyes start to become more stable.

These age-related problems are typical and are caused by things like cataracts. What isn’t normal is if you begin to have difficulties with reading, even when you’re using your reading glasses. Or you have problems determining colour and judging distances. If you have any of these non-age-related vision concerns, it is important to discuss them with your health professional.

Non-age-related changes in vision that aren’t being helped by prescription lenses, and difficulties with spatial awareness, where previously you had no problem, could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s and needs to be checked. Other signs to watch out for are:

  • Difficulty identifying your own reflection in a mirror
  • Falling regularly due to losing the ability to judge the height of steps or the height difference between the pavement and road
  • Struggling to distinguish different colours
  • Losing the ability to differentiate the contrast between the food on your plate and the plate itself
  • Experiencing hallucinations – seeing things that in reality aren’t even there.

One of the things I remember when I think of Mum, was just how brave and fearless she was in living her life. Where others might waiver, Mum would take the bull by the horns and seize every opportunity given to her. In her younger days, she was an awesome sportswoman and loved adventures like any good tomboy. It was therefore all the more out of character when Mum started to become anxious and timid when faced with doing certain things.

If anyone reading this has visited the city of Sydney in Australia, you will no doubt have been into the magnificent Queen Victoria Building in the inner city centre. With its stunning architecture, sweeping staircases and gorgeous stained glass windows, it is a beautiful building to spend time in. Mum and Dad used to go there often for afternoon tea, and Dad would visit the hobby shop at the very top of the building. There is a long escalator to get up to the hobby shop and Mum would never have thought twice about stepping onto it, until one day Dad said he noticed she seemed very nervous. He had to coax her to take the first step and once on it Mum appeared overwhelmed. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, it got to the stage where Mum was too frightened to even get onto an escalator and I would have to go into the hobby shop for Dad to buy whatever supplies he needed.