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Peripheral Vision

Today’s insight discusses peripheral vision. As dementia progresses, loved ones can only focus on small areas — this is about how to reduce peripheral vision behaviors.

Transcription of Video:

Hi, I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care presenting today’s Insights from Arthur’s.

Today I want to talk about peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is meant for safety. Our vision includes the object in front of you that you are looking at, but our peripheral vision allows us to notice things zooming by us so that we know to check it. Peripheral vision is a part of safety awareness. When you are in your 20’s your peripheral vision is really good. You can see 180 degrees. To test this you can put your arms out straight to your side and wiggle your fingers. By the time you are in your 70’s your peripheral vision is a much more narrow range.

Older drivers understand that when you turn your head to see if a car is coming, you have to turn your body more than you used to just to be able to see the same thing. When a person enters the end stages of dementia their peripheral vision diminishes to nearly nothing. The reason that it is lost is because their brain can only focus on what is in front of them. I learned this from Teepa Snow, who is a great trainer in the field of dementia. She says to put on a pair of binoculars. To try this at home, curl your fingers and make a pair of “binoculars” and put them over your eyes.  Now, with your “binoculars” on, I want you to look at your shirt to see if you buttoned it correctly. Can you see it? No, you can’t.

Now imagine you are sitting at the dining room table and you have this type of vision. Who’s plate can you see most clearly? The plate directly across the table. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. Or perhaps the person with dementia has a field cut, where they can only see things on the left side of their play — you might actually need to turn their plate.

Recognize that when you are asking your loved one in the end stages of dementia to do something, or simply when you are approaching them, you need to approach from the front. This is because they can’t see you if you are coming from the side. If you are talking to them on the side and they can’t see you, they are just hearing voices. They don’t know where those voices are coming from and that could be very disturbing to them. Your loved one maybe will have thoughts like this: “Maybe there are strangers in the house and strangers rarely have good intentions…” So get yourself in their front view of vision. If the TV is on, they might need to be facing it so they understand where the sound is coming from. If you have talk radio in the background recognize that might be a distraction too and they may think it’s also a stranger.

I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care.

Contact Deb Nygaard
Director of Development
Arthur’s Residential Care: 651-429-4798