Increasing Visual Awareness & Identifying Sight Loss
People who work in care homes are uniquely placed to identify when residents have sight loss and to help them to access the aids and support they need. At present, according to recent research commissioned by the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a sight-loss charity, deterioration in residents’ vision may be unnoticed as care home workers are not always trained in visual awareness.
Why Does Sight Loss So Often Go Undetected?
People working in residential care homes and nursing care are often not trained in visual awareness, although this can have a real impact on the quality of life experienced by residents. If staff are given training on identifying the signs of sight loss, they can help the care services they work in to ensure that residents’ care plans include appropriate interventions to help anyone who has problems with their vision. Planning person-centred care depends on all aspects of their life being considered, and this includes ensuring that they have access to the support services they need and the aids that will help them.
Another reason that sight loss often goes undetected is the fact that residents in care homes can be reluctant to ask for help with things they find difficult because of poor vision.
According to the RNIB, up to fifty per cent of the 400,000 older adults living in care homes are affected by some aspect of sight loss and would benefit from extra support as a result of this.
Visual Awareness Training
Visual awareness training for people working in nursing care is often provided by local sight-loss charities. These charities also provide other services such as befriending that can help to ameliorate the effect of visual impairment for an older person.
Many staff in care homes in Surrey and elsewhere are unaware of the rehabilitation and support services that could be accessed by their residents. The research also identified that people working in residential care services often lacked knowledge about technology and aids that could help residents living with sight loss.
The research, which was carried out by Dr Lizzie Ward and Laura Banks at the University of Brighton, found that the quality of life of care home residents could be positively affected when staff and also other residents have a greater awareness of the impact of sight loss on a person. They also highlighted the importance of relationships with others to counteract feelings of isolation that people with sight loss might experience, and recommended that homes worked on improving connections with external organisations in the locality such as rehabilitation services and sight-loss societies.
How Care Staff Can Help
Questions about a resident’s vision should be routinely asked during the care planning process. These questions should be straightforward and proactive so that any needs relating to vision or sight loss are included in the care plan.
When residents are first admitted to a care home, they may find the transition difficult, especially if they have sight loss, so staff need to be aware of this. They also need to realise that sight loss is often combined with other problems such as memory loss, hearing loss, confusion, depression or mobility difficulties, so extra support may be needed.
Relatives of people living in residential care homes can help by talking about these issues to staff and other residents to increase visual awareness in the home.