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It’s long been known how important it is for older adults to be able to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) at a certain standard – both in terms of their quality of life and the expected length of that life. Case managers, home health workers, and others who might be tasked with checking up on patients after discharge from a healthcare facility pay close attention to things like the amount of caregiver support available, whether there are objects in the home that might increase the likelihood of falls, and other factors that could help or hinder an older person’s ability to return to daily life with some sense of normalcy.
A new study sheds light on a factor I hadn’t heard discussed before. In fact, I’m trying hard to resist the urge to call it “eye-opening.”
Published this week in JAMA Ophthalmology, the study found that worsening eyesight can contribute profoundly to a deterioration of ADLs in older adults, particularly when it comes to instrumental activities of daily living – things like cooking and housekeeping. That, in turn, can adversely affect life expectancy.
According to a press release from Purdue News Service, “The researchers analyzed data from the Salisbury Eye Evaluation study that tracked the vision health of 2,520 older adults, ages 65-84.”
So, how much did vision have to decline for there to be a serious adverse effect? According to a media release from JAMA Network, “Participants who experienced the decline in VA [visual acuity] of one letter on an acuity chart were expected to have a 16 percent increase in mortality risk during the 8-year study because of associated declines in IADL levels.”
The study makes me wonder what other subtle factors – possibly even unexplored factors – may be impinging on the quality of life of older adults and quietly increasing mortality risk. While I’m pondering that, though, I’m going to make sure my parents have had their eyes checked recently.