How Does Dementia Lead to Visual-Spatial Challenges for Seniors?

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Memory loss may be the most commonly known symptom of dementia, but the condition can also cause changes in other cognitive functions. As dementia worsens, many people experience visual-spatial problems. Ahead, learn how dementia affects visual and spatial perception.

Getting Lost

One of the early symptoms of dementia is a tendency to get lost. This symptom arises when dementia damages the parts of the brain responsible for spatial memory and navigation memory, including the medial temporal lobes and the parietal cortex. When humans navigate through the world, the brain uses two frames of reference to avoid getting lost: egocentric and allocentric. In egocentric navigation, space is processed in relation to the self. As people move, the brain updates its self-based map. In allocentric navigation, on the other hand, the brain processes landmarks in relation to each other, with no reference to the self. Dementia has a negative impact on both egocentric and allocentric navigation. It impairs the ability to learn the location of landmarks and create cognitive maps. Without these spatial processing powers, seniors with dementia develop a tendency to get lost.

Visual Processing Problems

Dementia also impacts areas of the brain responsible for visual processing. When it damages the dorsal stream, it can affect the ability to perceive motion. When it damages the ventral stream, it impairs the ability to recognize faces, objects, and colors. Other visual processing problems include poor contrast sensitivity, limited visual field, and poor depth perception. These visual impairments can leave seniors feeling overstimulated or disoriented.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care Kingwood, TX, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.


As dementia damages visual-spatial processing powers, seniors may have difficulty orienting themselves in space. The combination of navigational and visual impairment can lead seniors to bump into things or get lost in familiar environments. Because they misjudge distances, seniors may start swerving to dodge door frames and failing to grab hold of objects within their reach. They may also become wary of staircases, as they can no longer gauge the number or height of the steps. Seniors who cannot properly identify colors and contrast levels may interpret shiny floors and surfaces as wet and avoid walking on them for fear of slipping. As the trust in their own visual-spatial perception decreases, seniors may become increasingly afraid of navigating the world. Many seniors with dementia walk with a deliberately slow gait to avoid accidents.

Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Other Impacts of Visual-Spatial Problems

The visual-spatial symptoms of dementia have a big impact on daily life. These problems can affect reading, writing, grooming, cooking, and much more. To optimize quality of life, take notice of all the ways visual-spatial problems impact your senior loved one’s life. If your loved one becomes anxious or disoriented in visually cluttered spaces, streamline the home environment. If your loved one is wary of walking on a shiny floor, walk on it first to demonstrate its safety. In general, you can help by providing the support and time your loved one needs to feel relaxed in disorienting situations.

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Kingwood 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. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. Reach out to one of our compassionate Care Managers today at 832-412-1345.