Most of them are either unable to visit the doctor due to the lockdown or because they are worried of catching the COVID-19 infection, if they step out. One such debilitating retinal disease which is a major cause of preventable blindness amongst the elderly, is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
India is estimated to have 288 million AMD patients by 2040. It is a disease where abnormal blood vessels grow in the macula (centre part of the retina) causing damage to the central vision, explains Dr Raja Narayanan, Hon. Secretary of Vitreo Retina Society of India (VRSI).
Older adults living with compromised vision are more likely to be depressed than patients who do not report such problems. Depression has been found in almost one-third of AMD patients which is approximately twice as high as the lifetime prevalence rates in normally sighted older populations. AMD patients are also at a very high risk of accidental falls and other injuries.
Here are few quick tips which caregivers and patients can follow to manage the condition, while the country gradually reopens:
Be connected with your doctor
Recently, the All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) had issued guidelines for injections for patients with AMD and it should not be deferred. Patients on anti-VEGF injections might need to go to the doctor for taking the injection, hence patients and caregivers are requested to check with their doctor to schedule the appointment and be in constant touch with them through tele-consultation.
Be compassionate with the elderly
Your older loved ones are going through a lot of physical and mental stress, during these trying times. Stay in touch with them through phone calls if you live separately. If you live with them, engage them in different activities and participate along with them. Listen to music and audio books, meditate and play board games. Younger members of the house can take charge of all household chores.
Keep a close eye on symptoms with the use of Amsler grid
Using the Amsler grid, AMD patients can check their eyesight every day. The grid helps you check any
vision changes which are not obvious. Contact your retinologist immediately, if you notice any symptoms such as wavy, broken or blurry lines in the grid.
Remove all hazardous objects from your house
It is advised to seek help from the younger family members or neighbours and remove all the unsafe objects from your walking and working area of the house. This will help decrease the risk of accidental falls due to low vision
Maintain a healthy diet and follow proper medication
Family members should make sure AMD patients follow the same routine as they used to before the lockdown. Make sure that they eat a healthy diet, don't make any drastic lifestyle modifications and continue following their medication and treatment regimen
Improve lighting in your home
Patients can improve lighting in the daytime by keeping the windows open and using more lights and lamps at night. It is advised keep a few lights on while sleeping to reduce the chances of bumping into something in the middle of night if the
patient happens to wake up
Seek help from neighbours
If you are living alone or with your elderly spouse, don't hesitate to seek support from neighbours to stock groceries and medicines. Ask for assistance during emergency and keep emergency contact details like ambulance, nearby hospital, police station etc.