She is 87 has a detached retina. She will need general anesthesia for the surgery. We are worried about the anesthesia causing dementia or other cognitive problems. What is the risk? She has a sound mind and lives alone and cares for herself at present. The question is, "Does she risk this for the sight in this eye?" HELP!
The big issue I see is the one Pamstegma mentioned. The recovery is a royal pain and requires someone to be in attendance practically full-time. In my mother's case, that was me. I don't think she had to lie face down but she definitely had to keep her head tilted downwards 24/7 and that was pretty difficult. It also required multiple lengthy follow-up appointments, at least 4 or 5 if I recall, and she had to be driven because they dilated her eye each time. Her surgery was successful though and it saved her eye.
Recovery requiring maintaining a position which kept her face parallel to the floor. I stayed with her, and we managed to create some rube Goldberg adaptations that worked, but we also used it as a bonding time.
For eating, I dragged mattresses down from the second floor bedroom; she laid face down on the mattress, I sat on the floor and helped feed her. We used music as often as we could to keep us both calm.
She also was able to get through her health insurance (through Michigan State) a chair in which allowed her to lean over and rest her head, kind of like a massage table or medical table with a hole for the head.
In thinking over this issue, and what I would do if it were my parent, I now think I would go for the surgery. I think adjusting to vision in only one eye would be too difficult and too traumatic, and especially too disorienting.
There is no guarantee either that she will develop dementia type symptoms. I didn't see these in my 98 year old father in any of his surgeries, including the femur fracture repairs.
First, has the diagnosis been made and type of anesthesia been decided by an ophthalomoligst who has performed a retinal re-attachment surgery repeatedly? This would be my first concern.
Second, I don't know how anyone can weigh the both very difficult options, but...are there any indications that there is any dementia involved now? What would be her recovery options - at home with family? In a rehab facility with strangers?
Generally my inclination would be to get the re-attachment surgery, because as we age, we all need as good eyesight as we can have to help prevent falls. Loss of sight in one eye would require readjustment to her surroundings, and that could be as difficult if not more than the possibility of some level of dementia.
I think I would try to boil it down to acclimation the loss of sight (probably a definite given consequence) vs. possible dementia (a possible, perhaps likely, but not necessarily a given complex).
I wish you peace of mind as you evaluate the complex situation.
Jacqmoo - I think you should talk to your mother's doctor about her aftercare requirements. Your mother would probably need a little extra support in any event because general anesthesia knocks many people for a loop for at least a day or so.
See All Answers