Guest Blogger, Richard Keane
A new review has revealed that thousands of patients in UK care homes (nursing homes) are missing out on sight tests and acceptable standards of eye care. The review, compiled by the Thomas Pocklington Trust and the International Longevity Centre UK, claims that up to half of the 400,000 elderly people living in UK care homes suffer from sight loss that could be treated. Diseases prevalent in the elderly include glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. However, eye health is being neglected in the majority of homes, with some carers assuming that there is no need for sight testing in elderly patients, especially in the case of those with Alzheimers Disease (dementia), and a lack of national policy is causing eye care to fall low down on the list of care priorities.
Why is eye health being neglected?
The review cites a number of possible reasons for eye care neglect: firstly, eye care is not usually considered a threat to overall health and as a result it comes low on the list of priorities for care givers and nurses in nursing homes. Nurses are currently overstretched and they use their time to identify and treat problems they deem more harmful.
Another issue is a lack of training and awareness of eye problems and the potential risks they place on overall health and wellbeing. Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, said eye care is not at present part of the care quality guidelines for care homes and is widely neglected – although some care homes do provide excellent eye care services.
Part of the problem may also lie with patients: many older people assume that losing their sight is part and parcel of the aging process and do not ask for help or bother to raise concerns about their sight.
What can be done?
Baron Greengross has appealed for improvements in eye care services in UK nursing homes and concerns have been raised with the Care Quality Commission. The review urges the CQC to add eye care to the current criteria for nursing home assessment, as regular sight testing would enable early warning signs and developing problems to be diagnosed and treated, thus helping to preserve sight and enhance quality of life. There is currently no standard for care homes to meet in terms of eye care provision and regular sight tests are not available to a large number of nursing home residents.
Sarah Buchanan, Director of the Thomas Pocklington Trust, said that a change of attitude toward eye care was required in order to improve eye health and vision among older people. She added that it is important for eye care to be regarded as a priority and that a change of policy to raise the profile of eye care would help to achieve this goal.
More information on eye problems and other health conditions is available on the Harley Street site.