Viewpoint: Out of sight - looking out for patients with dual sensory loss

Sue Brown says physios can help to refer deafblind people to appropriate services.

There are about 250,000 people with dual sensory loss in the UK, and the prevalence is likely to be higher in those accessing health and social care provision.

What it means to be deafblind is different for every single person. Some people with have a little sight and a little hearing while others are completely deaf and blind.

Many of this group will also be older people. It is easy to assume that this is ‘part of getting older’ and that there is nothing that can be done.

This isn’t the case and there is a raft of support out there for older people with sensory loss.

Sight and hearing loss in older people can often be overlooked by professionals who are perhaps focused on other more obvious physical ailments, without recognising the way in which sensory loss can impact on all parts of an individual’s life  – including his or her ability to understand and take part in any physiotherapy activities.

Not identifying that an individual has sight and hearing loss could mean denying them the opportunity to continue to do things for themselves through specialist support, and assistive technology. Advice and support comes after a specialist assessment by social services.

Physiotherapists are in a good position to identify older people with hearing and sight loss and refer to refer them on for help where appropriate.

The support that each person with sight and hearing loss needs will be different, but for some a red and white cane can make all the difference.

There is more to getting a red and white cane than getting the cane itself. The individual will also need mobility and orientation training from a qualified instructor who can teach them all the skills required. This referral and other advice and support will come after the assessment by the sensory team.

Do you know anyone who might benefit?

Sue Brown is  head of campaigns and public policy at Sense, the national deafblind charity.  Find our more about Sense,here

Sue Brown is head of campaigns and public policy at Sense

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