Why I think everyone should do deafblind training

Featured article - 16 December 2016
By Jo Virgo, occupational therapist for adult social care.

Head-shot of the author, Jo Virgo, occupational therapist for adult social care.

The importance of a specialist assessment for older people with age acquired dual sensory loss

All health and social care staff should do the SCIE specialist assessment training. That’s how I feel after I went on the course six months ago.

A rising elderly population has resulted in an increase of older people experiencing co-occurring sight and hearing difficulties. These people often live alone; struggle to complete their day to day activities; maintain social relationships; get out and about and access information about the world. This inevitably leads to social and emotional isolation, lack of cognitive stimulation and reduced physical exercise. As a consequence these people are more likely to experience a higher incidence of physical and mental health conditions.

To compound the impact, most people with this condition do not consider themselves to be dual sensory impaired and most professionals miss the signs – they are simply not on anyone’s radar.

The Specialist Deafblind Assessor training delivered by SCENE/SCIE provides information about the different types of visual and hearing conditions and how these conditions impact on a person's function. The course highlights that the co-occurrence of hearing and sight difficulty is a unique condition that presents it's own exclusive challenges. This is a very important message which has had a positive impact on my work.

Since completing the training in March 2016 I have become more skilled in identifying this condition within my role as an Occupational Therapist within a Health and Social Care Intermediate Care facility (over 65's). During assessments I am now able to observe the signs and symptoms of the presence of co-occurring hearing and visual impairments. These are not as obvious as you may think, hence research showing professonals often underestimate the impact of dual sensory loss. I am now also equipped to ask clients relevant questions about their day-to-day functioning to ascertain to what extent this condition impacts on their ability to get around their home safely, access the community, engage in social activities and their ability to access information.

The SCENE/SCIE training has enabled me to distinguish whether a person's reduced function is related to a cognitive or co-occurring sensory impairment. Making this distinction is paramount due to the consequences of an incorrect evaluation. Not properly and fully understanding co-occurring sensory impairment can lead to inappropriate assessments and interventions which is detrimental to the client.

I would urge all staff to attend this training. Only with a fully trained health and social care workforce can we be sure that more people are identified with this condition and that their need are being met.

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