The social care sector is failing to meet the needs of older people with sight loss because of a lack of staff training, poor co-ordination between agencies and insufficient emotional support, a study published today has found.
The Thomas Pocklington Trust, which supports visually impaired people, found care homes and sheltered housing providers suffered from a lack of awareness about the experiences and needs of older people with sight loss.
Its study was based on interviews with 24 service users older than 80 and a literature review.
Interviewees spoke of “not feeling welcome” among fellow residents or staff, reflecting a previous study that found that some sheltered housing residents were intolerant of their counterparts with sight problems.
Many of the older people interviewed said their personal preferences were often not taken into account by providers as a result of staff shortages or use of agency staff. Although service users’ practical needs were often met, emotional support was seldom offered, while they also lacked information and advice on managing their eye conditions.
Interviews with care staff found that few were trained to work with visually-impaired older people and some did not regard it as a priority. Providers said that communication between agencies about users with eye problems was also lacking.
“As the population ages, there will be more frail, older people struggling with sight loss, yet many care and support professionals simply do not recognise their needs,” said Dr Angela McCullagh, research and development director at Thomas Pocklington. “When many of our oldest old give up their independence [to move into care homes] and still don’t get the practical help they need, there is obviously something wrong with the system. What’s needed is a care sector that provides adequate support and helps people hang on to their individuality.”
The report called for:
• A co-ordinated programme of awareness-raising and training in the needs of older people with sight loss across the care sector.
• Sheltered housing and care home providers to develop strategies to deal with discrimination by staff and residents against those with sight loss.
• Older people with sight loss in communal settings should have regular access to eye tests.
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