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Improvements need to be made for blind and partially sighted older people

Improvements need to be made for blind and partially sighted older people
10th February 2016

Two leading charities have highlighted the need to improve services for elderly people with eyesight problems.

Age UK and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have said that nearly 12,500 blind and partially sighted older people are not getting the treatment they need, becoming "casualties" of the current healthcare crisis.

Between 2008 and 2013, there was a more than a third drop (36.5 per cent) in services to support people with visual impairment. Of this total number, it is estimated that more than 12,400 blind or partially sighted older people over the age of 65 have missed out on necessary care.

This includes help with essential daily living tasks, such as getting out of bed, cooking, cleaning, getting washed and dressed and receiving help with eating.

It is estimated that around half of older people who are registered blind or partially sighted live alone, increasing their risk of not getting the appropriate level of care.

Together, the leading charities warn that the real number of older people not getting support for their eyesight problems is likely to be much higher than the one reported. This is because many elderly people have care needs but don't get any formal help, meaning there is no record of it, they suggest.

Outlined in their report Improving later life for people with sight loss, the figures from the charities suggest that older people with sight problems are being disproportionately affected by cuts to funding.

The document indicates that not meeting the care needs of this group of partially sighted and blind people is having a "considerable" impact on their health and wellbeing, and is jeopardising their independence.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "That so many blind or partially sighted older people who need social care aren’t getting is profoundly shocking. Losing our sight is something many of us fear the most, and the idea of struggling alone without social care assistance in such circumstances seems appalling in a civilised society."

She said she hopes the Spending Review will mean that improvements are made in the next year, but there is still too little funding going into social care.

Older people with sight loss are nearly twice as likely to fall and have a much higher risk of injury, compared to people with no eyesight problems. On average, more than 2.3 million older people fall each year, with nearly 87,800 of these being attributed to sight problems.

This has a significant impact on the healthcare system, with nearly one in five of these individuals (17 per cent) requiring hospital treatment. In total, it is estimated that falls cost the NHS and social care system £6 million each day.

Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at RNIB, said support is essential for blind and partially sighted people as it allows them to live "with dignity and choice".

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