Managing Better – Just Stop for a Minute

Managing Better is a specialist housing service for older people with a sensory loss, hosted by Care & Repair.  Stop for a minute while reading this article and consider, perhaps, that you have put on someone else’s spectacles and how that would affect the way you saw the world.  Or think of a time when you showered or swam, and your hearing was affected by a blockage. Now, continue with your reading…as we grow older, these are some of the sensory challenges we might face on a permanent basis!

So often whilst delivering services, we fail to consider how effective we are in communicating with the people we help. Can we expect to get things right if we don’t think about the person who receives the service as much as we think about their needs? Yes, we are living longer, by 2033 older people in Wales will make up 26% of our population, but health challenges are an issue for quality of life. Trends indicate that more and more older people are living with sight loss, commonly cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, and many have a hearing impairment. Threats to independence can rapidly become an issue. Stairs, steps, gradients, paths can become a real problem; lighting, colours, patterns, and shades a real issue; personal balance, bells, alerts and telephones will increasingly be a challenge.

So, there are two types of things we can do to support older people with sensory loss, the first being sensible advice, e.g. get your eyes checked every two years and every year if you are over 85. This can reduce deterioration in sight by up to 50%. Every day in Wales, nearly 4 people start to lose their sight and one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime, this increases their risk of a fall by 170%.

Early cataract removal reduces the risk of a fall by a third. Conventional management of the home, with clutter, dark corners, rucked carpets and trailing cables become bigger challenges when compounded with poor sight; as does managing on stairs, steps and across gradients. If the result is a fall it can be life-changing.

The second is, to provide a bespoke approach to adapting the home, or providing packages of assistance. Off the shelf doesn’t always work, unless you can consider the impact of things like lighting, patterns, colours, contrasts., For the individual Care & Repair’s Managing  Better service works to RNIB’s Visibly Better standards to create accessible environments when providing solutions, anticipating issues our vulnerable clients will face. We will always adapt the home with the person’s needs in mind.

Our collaboration with RNIB Cymru and Action on Hearing Loss Cymru has been indispensable in helping our home improvement services make what matters to vulnerable older people a genuine reality. Too often the real plight of older people is not fully understood across public services. Thus, alongside what we do for our clients in helping them manage better in their homes, we are also advocating across services, to Just Stop for a Minute and consider potential sensory loss, before you deliver your services. Taking that extra minute when delivering your service can make a big difference to someone’s life.

Neil Williams, Care & Repair Cymru