This is a question I’ve been asked several times over the years when I have consulted with families who struggle with a loved one with dementia and who also has cataracts. As long as that person’s overall health is fairly good, and they are still in the early or middle stages of dementia (including early in the late stages), I usually always advise families to go ahead with the surgery. I have seen elders in their 80’s have the surgery and the result is not only can they see better, but they are happier and more content. If you think about it, if you were right now wearing a pair of eyeglasses with the lens smeared with petroleum jelly, how do you think you would feel? My guess is you would be afraid to walk, you would be more confused as your brain tried to make sense of what you were seeing, and you would be more nervous. I believe this is what elders with dementia feel when they are unable to see well, and when you pair that with their daily confusion about their surroundings, it makes them more anxious.
In Medical News Today, Oct. 27, 2011 a study entitled “Mood, Cognition & Sleep Patterns Improve in Alzheimer’s Patients After Cataract Surgery” talks about how researchers at Tenon Hospital, Paris, France found all of these positive changes in their test subjects. Their study included 38 patients with an average age of 85 who all had mild AD and who underwent standard cataract surgery and implantation of intraocular lenses in at least one eye. They reported that distance and near vision “improved dramatically in all but one” of the subjects, as well as finding relief from depression. These are pretty significant findings! What I find most satisfying is that cognition was improved in these elders when they could see better. (http://www.medicalnewestoday.com/releases/236618.php) To me, this is confirmation of what I have experienced with a few of these elders over the years. Not only does it immediately improve their quality of life, but if that elder with dementia is happier and calmer, then their caregivers and families are as well. Please don’t discount this type of surgery if your loved one has cataracts. At least have them examined to determine the extent of the damage so you will have an idea of just how much improvement might be realized.