This week is National Eye Health Week. June Neil, Training and Development Manager, UK Older People Complex Needs Team at RNIB, explains what social care providers can do to help prevent sight loss for the people they support.
Sight is the nation’s most precious sense, and the one people fear losing the most. National Eye Health Week runs from September 19-25 and here at RNIB we think it’s not only time to stop and think about your eye health but also the eye health of those you support.
Every day 250 people in the UK start to lose their sight: that’s one person every six minutes. Two million of us are living with sight loss and 80% of this group are aged 65 years and over. Consider who you support, how many are living with sight loss or potentially undiagnosed sight loss because the symptoms are masked by another longer-term health condition?
Preventing sight loss – what you can do
Book a sight test. A sight test should not be viewed as a check if you need glasses but an MOT for eye health. Early intervention is essential for diagnosis of conditions, treatment, and prevention of further sight loss.
You may be prompted to make an appointment when you notice changes to your vision. If you are supporting someone with dementia or a stroke survivor, they may not be able to tell you.
As a carer, it is important to recognise possible signs of sight loss.
These may include changes in behaviour such as:
- No longer participating in hobbies
- Persistently cleaning glasses
- Increase in clumsiness, trips, or falls
RNIB has produced an easy-to-use Identifying sight loss tip card. The advice given will help you feel confident in spotting possible signs of sight loss. In addition to the above, these may include:
- Adopting an unusual head position
- Hesitancy in bright light
- Changes in the appearance of the eye
If you observe any of the signs, book an immediate appointment with an optometrist or optician. RNIB also has a range of information resources, services and products that can help you in your role if you are working with older people – Working with older people – RNIB – See differently.
Even if you don’t observe changes in vison, everyone should have a routine appointment every two years, and in Scotland people over the age of 60 and in the rest of the UK those over 70 should be seen annually. Your optometrist may advise more regular appointments if you have an existing eye condition or are at risk of developing one.
Sight tests are free for those aged 60 years and over. Financial assistance may be available for purchasing glasses or contact lenses for those on Pension Credit, Universal Credit or who have limited income and savings.
The cost-of-living crisis is significantly impacting everyone, including those living with sight loss. RNIB can provide advice on benefits you may be entitled to as well as ways to maximise your income. For more information, call the RNIB Helpline on 03031 23 999.