Dean Gilmore lo resCataract surgery on Alzheimer’s disease patients slows dementia and improves their quality of life, according to clinical trials conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical Center and MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

Grover “Cleve” Gilmore, PhD, Dean of the Mandel School, led the five-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging that examined the benefits of cataract surgery for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Gilmore said he hopes the study’s outcomes change the health disparity for Alzheimer’s patients denied cataract surgery due to a lack of evidence of any benefit.

“We’ve shown that it does benefit them,” he said.

The researchers report that, after assessing risks and safety issues for Alzheimer’s patients, co-occurring health problems—like cataracts—should be addressed.

“This study supports the Alzheimer’s Association view that people with dementia retain, and benefit from, full health care treatment,” said Maria Carrillo, PhD, the association’s vice president of medical and science relations.

Common perceptions that Alzheimer’s patients need no extra care or shouldn’t be put through surgery “are not justified and are bad medical practice,” Carrillo said.

Gilmore’s psychological research in visual perception deficits has shown that blurred vision and problems with contrast, which can occur with aging and dementia, place many at risk for accidents, such as bumping into things and falling down stairs. And as their visual world disappears, he said, many become withdrawn.

The study’s co-investigators are: Alan Lerner and Jon Lass, from Case Western Reserve’s Department of Ophthalmology at the medical school and University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UH); Julie Belkin and Susie Sami, from UH; Tatiana Riedel from Case Western Reserve’s Department of Psychological Sciences and Sara Debanne from the Department of Epidemiology; and Thomas Steinemann, from Case Western Reserve and MetroHealth Medical Center.

The patients weren’t the only ones to benefit from the surgery. Gilmore said caregivers reported being less stressed because the surgery allowed Alzheimer’s patients to become more mobile and independent—getting dressed, eating, moving and even driving.

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