What Are the Causes of Visual-Spatial Issues in Dementia?

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Dementia’s most recognizable symptoms are loss of memory and an inability to think clearly. However, the mental difficulties of dementia can also greatly affect other bodily functions. Many seniors experience visual-spatial issues that can make it difficult to identify objects, navigate around familiar spaces, avoid falls, recognize faces, and process visual information. There are a few key reasons so many people with dementia encounter visual-spatial issues. 

Dementia May Impair Sight

It’s possible for seniors with dementia to essentially develop blindness because the part of the brain that processes visual information from the eyes is so degraded. In these cases, seniors can have perfectly healthy eyes but still have difficulty seeing in dark areas, overly bright areas, or areas with a lot of visual stimulation. This inability to properly view the world around them greatly impacts seniors’ visual-spatial abilities.

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Parts of the Brain Responsible for Spatial Awareness Diminish

Most people don’t consciously think about it every day, but spatial awareness takes a lot of brainpower to process. It involves keeping track of where each part of the body is, understanding the relation between oneself and other objects, and calculating size and distance relative to oneself. When cognitive functions are drastically impaired by dementia, the brain no longer has the ability to calculate all these complex factors instantly. Instead of being able to move the body around in a three-dimensional space without conscious thought, seniors may need a bit of extra time to sort out spatial issues. 

Dementia Makes It Difficult to Identify What’s Seen

Another cause of visual-spatial issues is that dementia makes visual identification more challenging. Even if a senior can still see perfectly fine, the brain might not properly label what he or she sees. For example, a senior might be able to see stairs in perfect detail but fall down them anyway because the brain doesn’t register that what’s being seen is a change in elevation. This type of dementia symptom tends to cause difficulty navigating or locating lost objects. Without the ability to identify objects and associate them with various tasks or consequences, visual-spatial awareness can be very challenging. 

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Communication between Brain Parts Decreases

The parts of the brain that process sight and make spatial calculations are in completely different areas. Spatial awareness is controlled by the right temporal cortex on the side, while vision is governed by the occipital lobe at the back. Most types of dementia tend to make it difficult for various segments of the brain to communicate, which means the spatial awareness areas may not be able to access information about what’s being seen, so it’s difficult for them to properly register changes. 

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Assisting Hands Home Care is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Cincinnati families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. To learn about our premier in-home care options, give us a call at (513) 729-9999 today.