Sight and hearing loss is something which affects so many people we work with on a daily basis. Action on hearing loss report 1 in 6 people have hearing loss which is a staggering 11 million people in the UK.
1 in 9 people over 60 years old have sight loss, 1 in 5 if you are over 75 years old and 1 in 2 if you are over 90. There are also approximately over 390,000 people in the UK who have a Dual Sensory Impairment affecting both their sight and hearing.
With this in mind, it remains surprising that communication and daily living needs of people who have a Sensory Impairment is not routine taught and discussed during Social Work training.
The focus of a specialist team is to work directly with the person regarding their specific needs.
The Care Act 2014 introduced statutory guidance for the first time for people who are Sight/Severely Sight impaired or who meet s.78 criteria for Dual Loss/DeafBlind. So now, not only do we have a statutory framework we are also aware as an aging society, the numbers of people who have a sight or hearing loss will increase as older population sizes increases. Although the focus of my team is adults, there are a significant number of children who have sight and hearing loss who may require specialist support.
The focus of a specialist team is to work directly with the person regarding their specific needs. For some people it is advice and information, referring on to specialist organisations such as the RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss, Deafblind UK and Open Sight.
Specialist assessments work on a Strengths Based Approach
For others it could be more local support for example specialist employment advisors, Access to Work, community groups and resources. There are now more organisations supporting veterans who have sight and hearing loss who can offer additional support. If the person is having challenges at home in relation to their sight or hearing a full assessment of their needs may be required by a Sensory Specialist worker.
Specialist assessments work on a Strengths Based Approach and are focussed on what the individual would like to change. During the last week multiple visits have been completed, some of the common solutions have been: supplying an adapted smoke alarm with vibrating pad and light beacon so a person who is unable to hear without hearing aids can be alerted if the smoke alarm goes off.
The Echo Dot
Additional lighting has been placed in a person’s home who has reduced vision, not only does this help with their mobility and fall/trip reduction, it also means they make the best use of their vision and can see their large print books more easily. An Echo Dot has been issued to someone who is becoming socially isolated, no longer able to keep in touch with family and friends easily and struggling to operate their digital radio.
The Echo Dot has been set up to phone the person’s friends/family upon request, their medical appointments can be set-up with reminder alerts so they don’t forget, they are able to request music/news/weather whenever they want and in the future light bulbs and plugs can be added to this system, this has been hugely empowering to the individual. A throat lump moment occurred when a lady who is being nursed at home by her family could hear her daughter for the first time in many years, the simple solution of a portable amplifier which enable her to hear who was speaking to her and empowered her when Dr’s were asking her questions about her end of life care, enabled her to understand exactly what was going on and the options available to her.
Hospital avoidance is a key factor within our work, we demonstrate safer kitchen techniques, we can place markers on cookers/microwaves and domestic appliances to enable the person to operate the controls more easily. We can discuss placement of kettles and pouring techniques to prevent burns and scolds. There are so many new kitchen items which can make a difference, colour contrasting, talking tin/can lids where you can voice record what is in the tin, no-one wants rice pudding on toast for example! For those people who use tablets/Ipads functions such as a downloadable magnifier can make all the difference when reading food instructions, if they don’t already have a specialist magnifier.
Outdoor mobility is a key team function, teaching techniques on how to access the community more safely and the different App’s which are now available for walking routes and bus planning. These free App’s can make a fundamental difference in someone getting on and off the correct bus at the correct time and place.
There are so many different techniques/aids/adaptations which can be considered if required by the individual, contacting your local specialist team to find out what is available locally can be empowering to yourselves and those people you work with. Raising the profile of the needs of people who have sight and hearing loss is essential and upskilling professionals will result in better outcomes for those we work with.