Caring for the AMD patient

Caring for the AMD patient

amd post 3Caring for the AMD patient

As we age, many of us will start noticing changes in our vision as we reach for reading glasses more frequently and need regular eye exams to update our existing prescriptions. But many older adults find their vision is further impeded by the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can blind people in their straight-ahead (central) vision. Tasks that used to be simple, like selecting the right cereal brand or recognizing the face of a neighbor, become increasingly challenging as the disease progresses.
As AMD worsens, the need for caregiving goes up. According to a recent study, people living with advanced AMD, may need assistance as much as 3.7 hours per day and 4.7 days per week. Given that 72 percent of people living with AMD are cared for by either their spouse or adult child and there is no cure, family caregivers need a good understanding of how to best assist someone with limited central vision and the different treatment options available for their loved one as the disease progresses. Education and practical strategies can also mitigate the stress that caregivers report feeling in caring for someone living with AMD.
Regardless of whether your loved one has the wet or dry form of AMD, it is very likely to progress over time. For example, as the blind-spot grows larger, patients will need more assistance in navigating rooms. It is helpful to describe the furniture location and let them know who is in the room with them as this helps with orientation and reduces patient stress.
Caregivers should also explore low vision centers in their community (e.g., Lions Clubs or Lighthouse organizations), as those organizations can provide education about and access to low vision assistive devices that can improve patients’ ability to read, watch TV or use the computer. A low vision specialist can also train patients to navigate their changing world more effectively.
Further, make sure to develop a strong relationship with your loved one’s doctor. Treatment for AMD is tailored to each patient and available treatments have improved vastly in just the past ten years. Treatments might include:

  • Vitamin therapy: Often called the AREDS2 prescription (named after a very large government study), this therapy includes a specific combination of vitamins to slow the progression of AMD.
  • Eye injections: Called anti-VEGF treatment, the injections (e.g., Avastin, Lucentis, Eyelea) can slow progression of the wet form of AMD.
  • Photodynamic therapy: A “cold” laser treatment for wet AMD (often in combination with injections).
  • Laser therapy: Also for wet AMD, a laser destroys or seals off new blood vessels to prevent leakage.
  • Telescope implant: For end-stage AMD patients, a tiny telescope (the size of a pea) is implanted in one eye to restore central vision. The other eye is left “as is” to preserve peripheral vision. Caregivers will need to support patients as they learn to use the telescope implant and their new vision. The telescope implant is not a cure for AMD, but it is proven to restore vision and improve quality of life. It is FDA approved and Medicare eligible.

Note, cataract surgery is often performed on the AMD patient. However, studies show that there is little central vision improvement for the patient whose condition is advanced.
For more information about AMD treatment with the telescope implant, visit www.CentraSight.com or call 877-99-SIGHT.

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson

As Senior.com Director of Sales and Marketing, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well.  Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor.  Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and she was a primary caregiver.  Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 104-year-old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor.  She is happily married to her husband of 24 years and they have 3 children.

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