Dementia: Care staff unaware of impact of sight loss on users

Care staff working with people with dementia are unaware that sight loss causes increased confusion and distress.

That was the message from research published today for visual impairment charity the Thomas Pocklington Trust, carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

Interviews with 52 people with dementia and sight loss, family carers and care professionals found care staff felt ill-equipped to deal with the combined problems.

The research team, which included Professor Sube Banerjee, who has jointly led the development of the government’s dementia strategy, said this was the first time the combination of both conditions has been examined.

Sight loss not being addressed

Report author Joanna Murray said: “The combination of dementia and sight loss creates a profound sense of disorientation and provokes a great deal of distress, yet the role of sight loss in dementia is not being addressed.”

Few dementia care staff said they felt that visual impairment would have a significant effect on the way they worked with clients, and the researchers found little evidence of information sharing between professionals dealing with mental health and sensory impairment issues.

Sight loss meant visual clues to the here and now, such as the time on a clock or the date from a newspaper, were lacking. Researchers said that attending to sensory needs reduced disorientation and helplessness and made disruptive behaviour less likely.

Murray said there was a vital need “to ensure that care professionals have the training and understanding to provide the best quality care”.

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