Cataract Complications And The Elderly: How Quickly Should Your Mom Or Dad Recover From Eye Surgery?

When your elderly parent needs eye surgery, it can be a big deal for the whole family. Especially if they're living on their own and independently, you're likely to worry about the procedures and recovery. Cataracts, a very common ailment of aging eyes, can be surgically remedied with far fewer complications and complaints than other things your parent may face. That doesn't mean, though, that they won't need your help along the way.

Why Your Parent Needs The Surgery

A cataract is a collection of rogue protein that gathers somewhere within the lens, leading to complications in vision. These may include blurriness, sensitivity to light and seeing odd shapes floating around in the visual field. Especially as someone gets older, that collection of protein becomes more problematic, necessitating the help of an eye surgeon.

Cataracts can be a complication of diabetes, medications or the simple wear-and-tear a human experiences over the years. Other influences, such as genetics, smoking, hypertension, sun damage, medications and even alcohol can add to cataract problems. Without surgical intervention, cataracts may eventually cloud vision completely, leading to total blindness.

How They Can Prepare

Your mom or dad will likely need an eye exam a couple of weeks before scheduled surgery, to take precise measurements of their eye components, like the exact curve of their cornea. An eye surgeon must gather this data in order to know what size and shape the artificial lens, which will be surgically implanted, should be. Additionally, prescription eye drops may be given to your parent, either to prevent infection or inflammation and this is something they may need assistance with, to ensure the drops are adequately administered.

Around the house, your mom or dad should prepare by getting way ahead with dishes, laundry, cooking and other chores that require manual labor. Grocery shopping and other activities where bending and lifting are involved will be prohibited, so help them be ready for the limited activity, or ask their caregiver to do so. There should be no pressure on the affected eye, such as that which occurs when leaning over or carrying heavy items.

What To Expect During Recovery

Your mom or dad should not be in any pain during recovery; however, they may experience a few minor symptoms that the eye surgeon will forewarn them about:

  • Itchiness.
  • Small discharge of fluid.
  • General discomfort or a weird sensation in the affected eye.
  • Light sensitivity.

If your parent feels anything more than these minor symptoms, the eye doctor should be contacted right away. As a senior, your mom or dad will likely have a few follow-up appointments already scheduled, but don't wait to report anything unusual.

How You Or Another Caregiver Can Help

Your elderly parent may insist upon doing everything they usually do, and that's okay, provided there's no strain on the eye. Bringing over home-cooked meals, helping with housework and chauffeuring them around are all ways to help, while checking in on them at the same time.

Life will return to normal shortly, but it's important that your parent keeps all appointments and apply any eye-drops prescribed. If they have difficulty getting the recommended number of drops in place, someone should help them with this. It's also a good idea to have a pair of protective sunglasses on hand, which should be worn whenever going out, even if it doesn't appear to be sunny.

Long-Term Eye Care Solutions

Your elderly mom or dad should check in regularly with their optometrist (different from the ophthalmologist, who performed the eye surgery), for eye health checkups. An optometrist can test eyes for abnormalities and to offer vision correction advice and devices, if needed. Following cataract surgery, your parent may want different glasses, like progressive lenses that counteract presbyopia (a failing ability to focus, very common in the elderly) and possible refractive errors (being far or nearsighted).

While eye surgery, especially something as common as cataract surgery, should go smoothly, with recovery happening fairly quickly, because your mom or dad is older, they may need more attention than usual. Call and/or visit as often as you can, or have someone else check in on them. They should be better than new in no time, but the extra TLC certainly doesn't hurt.