Eye care is neglected in care homes, says report

Posted on August 19th, by editor in CT Extra. No Comments

Caring Times, September 2012

Lack of a national policy on eye health in care homes leaves many older people without the most basic eye care says a report from the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) and the sight loss charity, Thomas Pocklington Trust.

‘Undetected sight loss in care homes: an evidence review’ is a comprehensive review of sight testing and sight loss in care homes. It says eye care and sight testing are both seriously neglected in care homes, leading to potential discrimination against those living in them compared to those who are cared for in the community.

“About half of those living in care homes are estimated to have sight loss and much of it is treatable, yet eye health is frequently ignored,” said ILC-UK chief executive Baroness Greengross.

“Eye health is not enshrined in the quality guidelines for care homes and while this remains the case, people in residential homes will continue to have lower standards of eye care than they deserve.”

The report says about 400,000 older people currently live in care homes across the UK and half of these are estimated to have some form of sight loss. Much of that, says the report, is partially or wholly treatable but eye health is frequently ignored as a health outcome in care homes. In particular, people with dementia may lose out on eye care as there is often a false assumption that sight testing someone with dementia is not worthwhile.

“Undetected sight loss in care homes: an evidence review” reports that: nationally, there is no standard requirement for care homes to ensure appropriate eye health care and sight tests for all residents. Appropriate testing is not consistently available to all residents, is often not taken up where it is offered and all too commonly there is inadequate attention to follow on support – such as ensuring spectacles are clean, up to date and in use.

In many care homes eye health and sight is ignored. Overstretched care staff do not see sight problems as a threat to residents’ health and there is a lack of training in its importance and the possibility of treatment. Sight loss remains a “silent” problem where many older people assume it is inevitable with age, and irreversible. They live with varying stages of deteriorating sight, unaware of their need for better care and therefore unable to ask for it.

Thomas Pocklington Trust research director Sarah Buchanan said the reeport showed there was an unacceptably high rate of treatable sight loss in care homes.

“While eye care and sight tests are neglected this will never change,” said Ms Buchanan.

“Eye care is not a minor part of general health – it is a crucial priority, vital to people’s health, wellbeing and independence. Only by recognising it as such will older people in care homes receive reliable, high quality eye care.”

Recommendations in the review include: The Care Quality Commission should incorporate eye health indicators into their assessment criteria for care homes. Care home providers should be encouraged to add eye health and sight loss testing to their key performance indicators. Care home staff and managers should be trained in issues of sight loss and eye health.

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