Information for professionals working with older people

If you work with older people the chances are you have already met someone with a dual sensory loss. 

There are: 

  • A support worker with an older woman at a forum in Northern Ireland222,000 people aged over 70 with dual sensory loss in the UK.
  • By 2030, nearly half a million people in the UK will have sufficient sight and hearing loss to be considered ‘deafblind’. Of these, 418,000 will be over the age of 70
  • More than 50 per cent of people over 60 will be affected by some type of hearing loss (Age UK)
  • Of the two million people with sight loss in the UK, over 80 per cent are over 60 and 45 per cent are over 80 (RNIB)

There is recognised to be a tipping point at 80, when it becomes increasingly likely that people will find it difficult to see and hear.

Unfortunately because sight and hearing problems often happen gradually for older people, we may not always recognise that there is a problem until it starts to have a serious impact. It is important that staff working with older people understand what is meant by deafblindness and how to recognise it. The term 'deafblind' refers to a combined hearing and sight loss. Most people who are deafblind have some hearing and vision.

I work for social services

For social services staff, our Fill in the Gaps toolkit can help you recognise dual-sensory loss, understand how this can affect a person's life and the support they need. People who are deafblind are entitled to a specialist assessment.

Download the Fill in the Gaps toolkit for England

Download the Fill in the Gaps toolkit for Wales in English

Download the Fill in the Gaps toolkit for Northern Ireland

Lawrlwytho Pecyn Cymorth Llenwch y Bylchau (Download the Fill in the Gaps toolkit for Wales in Welsh)

I am a healthcare professional

One in twenty of your patients over the age of 75 are likely to be classed as deafblind. They will have a moderate or severe hearing loss and a moderate or severe sight loss. The combination of the two adds up to a serious disability which will impact on their lives and health.

Older people who are deafblind have higher rates of a range of conditions, including stroke, arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, falls and depression. Sense estimates the cost of treating these additional conditions to be £365,000,000 per year.

Support is available to older people who are deafblind which would help keep them active, independent and healthy. Yet few receive appropriate services.  We have produced a pack for healthcare staff, It All Adds Up, that will be available to download as a PDF file from the website soon. You can request print copies from our information and advice team.

Attend our training to gain access to Sense’s Sensory Impairment Screening tool and training, to ensure you are providing the best possible care to the people you support.

Find out more about about our training and how to book

I work in a residential care home, or for a domiciliary care agency

Dual-sensory loss can create challenges for managers and staff. People who cannot easily see the television, listen to the radio, read, or take part in activities and conversations can quickly become isolated, leading to boredom, stress, depression and withdrawal.

You can read more information on meeting older people with dual sensory loss’ needs on our support for social care professionals page.

First published: Thursday 12 December 2013
Updated: Wednesday 6 July 2016