Cataract - Mabel's Story

We called to see Mabel, who was in her early 80's and she lived in a care home in Donaghadee, Co. Down. She was a very particular wee lady and wanted everything just so. She told me she was struggling to read small print and needed stronger glasses. At the end of the eye test I told her that stronger glasses would make no difference, Mabel said ' what sort of an optician are you, my last optician was able to give a stronger pair of glasses.' I tried to break it gently to Mabel that she had a slight misting in her eyes, a cloudiness that comes on over time Mabel said ' are you trying to tell me I've got cataracts...'

Mabel was very keen that she be referred to have the cataracts removed which is what I did.  At that time the waiting for cataract surgery was about 2 years. Thats a long time when you're 82. After 2 years had passed I received a phone call from the Matron of Mabel's care home, she explained to me that Mabel was due to have her cataract removed the following week, but that her GP wanted to cancel the operation as he didn't think it was worthwhile because Mabel was very confused. The Matron was very cross, she felt that Mabel, if spoken to in the right way would be more than capable of having the operation and wanted me to see Mabel and give my opinion. When I called to see Mabel she was a very different lady.  When I went into her room with the Matron Mabel was very distressed and appeared very confused. She shouted out in distress, about a cat which had jumped on her bed. There was no cat. Mabel's cataracts had become very dense and she was now only able to see shadows.  Her quality of life must now have been very poor. I felt that if something could be done, it could only improve matters. Matron agreed and she phoned the doctor asking him not to cancel the operation.

We got a phone call 6 weeks later asking us to come see Mabel. I was hoping that the surgery would have helped a little. When I arrived Matron took me to Mabel's room. I was greeted by Mabel pointing at the clock on the wall, telling me I was late, that it was 2.15 and that I had been due at 2 o'clock. I explained that I had got held up in traffic. Mabel reminded me that her room overlooked the entrance to the home and the car park where she had seen me talking to one of the nurses for the last 10 minutes. All the way through the test she co-operated and was able to read right down the letter chart, though she continued to complain about my punctuality! Mabel just needed a simple wee pair of reading glasses which allowed her to read small print. 

So much of Mabel's confusion was due to poor eye sight.

  • She was frightened when I had come into the room as all she saw was a dark shadow approaching her.  
  • When I set my equippment case on her white bedspread, Mabel "saw" a cat jump on her bed and it terrifed her. 
  • She was bored and frustrated due to her poor vision. 
  • She struggled to see food on her plate or her cup of tea. 
  • She found it difficult to communicate with people when she couldn't see them.

This all looked like Dementia even to her GP.  So much of it was however down to poor vision.

The cataract surgery transformed her life. I could tell a similar story about people from all over Northern Ireland from Enniskillen to Larne and Belfast to Portadown.

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