Almost a quarter of a million people living in UK care homes could unknowingly have an eye condition, which could lead to permanent sight loss if not spotted and treated in time.
The research comes as this National Eye Health Week (18 – 24 September), Specsavers Swansea is calling for equal access to eye care for all, especially those in care homes that can face extra challenges accessing care.
Of the 2.7 million people in the UK who would benefit from domiciliary eye care, only 460,000 eye tests were recorded between 2019 and 20203. Specsavers say that while regular eye tests are essential for everyone, they are especially important for people living in care homes, as they are five times more likely to experience sight loss, contributing to social isolation and reduced independence.
However, due to complex medical needs, such as dementia, reduced mobility and hearing loss, many care home residents are unable to access high street opticians, communicate their eye care needs, or easily access home visit services.
A government requirement to submit a pre-visit notification before carrying out an eye test for those who can’t leave their home unaccompanied, including those in care homes, is also being called at by Specsavers as an unnecessary administrative step which is further thwarting access to eye care.
Currently, optometrists are required to notify the NHS at least 48 hours before making a visit to one or two customers and three weeks before seeing three or more customers at the same address.
Dawn Roberts, Specsavers home visits clinical director, says: “Maintaining good vision is a key part of any person’s quality of life, but perhaps more so for care home residents because they often have limited mobility and so most of their hobbies and pastimes will involve visual tasks.
“Sight loss can be very isolating and for those already struggling with memory problems or dementia, any confusion and disorientation is exacerbated by impaired vision. This can lead to a loss of engagement in social activities and sometimes increased risk of falls. Providing regular eye care can minimise or even eliminate these issues for people living in care homes allowing them to enjoy doing the things they want to do.
“Specsavers is proud to offer home visits to anybody unable to leave their home, including residents of care homes.”
Specsavers say their Home Visits service, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, carries out the same standard of eye test in people’s homes that is found in it’s stores, but with just with a few changes and specialist equipment to make them home friendly.
In the past year alone, the optician says it’s team of mobile opticians have dispensed more than a quarter of a million glasses to those who can’t leave their homes unaccompanied and referred more than 2,500 people in Wales for treatment to safeguard their sight. They have also visited more than 2,100 people in Wales.
Regular eye tests are not only important in identifying changes in vision and detecting the early signs of multiple eye conditions, but also because sight loss can have a significant impact on the overall safety and wellbeing of a person, particularly if they are older. The rate of falls in older people with sight loss increase by 1.7 times, the medical cost of falls directly related to having sight loss is £128m.
(Lead image: Specsavers)
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