Is it normal for someone with Alzheimer's to stop "seeing" pictures and the television?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 85 year old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago, although she had symptoms years before that. She has been hospitalized twice with sepsis. The first time, we almost lost her. She lost the ability to walk and feed herself, and had to be admitted into a nursing home to receive extensive physical therapy. She learned how to walk again, slowly, and eventually hold a fork.

In the last 6 months, she appears to not be able to see (or maybe not to recognize what she sees). She has stopped watching TV, reading, or to appear that she can see. We try to show her pictures, but she doesn't appear to focus on the picture. Her eyes are looking elsewhere, and she "pretends" she is seeing them. Is this a part of AD, where they lose their ability to "see" or is it that they don't know what they are seeing because of the disease? She appears to not know us kids, and she thought her boyfriend of 30 years was her dad. Does anyone have any insight into this?

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Vision problems as a consequence of Alzheimer's disease are rare. Most likely, your mother does not recognize what she sees because of lack of comprehension caused by the Alzheimer's disease. It is quite common for individuals with Alzheimer's disease to live in the past and consider current people to be persons from their past. This is especially true if their is a resemblance between the people (e.g., granddaughter considered to be daughter).