Introduction

Admission to residential care is connected with both isolation and loneliness in older people and there is evidence suggesting that rates of ‘severe loneliness’ reported by people living in care homes (22–42%) are more than twice that of those in the wider community (10%). It is also known that sensory impairment has an impact on maintaining interaction with fellow care home residents.

However, while care home residents are more likely to experience sight loss than someone cared for at home, loneliness and isolation of older people with sight loss who live in residential care remains an under-researched area.

Objectives

The aim of this study was to increase knowledge and understanding about relationships between sight loss and social isolation/loneliness in care homes.

The objectives were to:

  • to map out the basic characteristics of care homes’ sight loss populations and efforts to address social isolation and loneliness; and
  • explore perspectives of residents with sight loss, family members and care home staff.

Methods

The project involved a short survey of care home managers, the administration of a measure of loneliness amongst residents with sight loss, and semi-structured interviews with a subsample of residents, care home managers and family members.

Findings

  • Most residents with sight loss appeared to be broadly satisfied with their wellbeing. However, measuring loneliness was difficult, even using established scales.
  • Residents often experienced: a lack of social connectedness; a sense of detachment from other residents in the care home; and a tendency to ‘keep themselves to themselves’.
  • Loneliness was not equivalent to the mere absence of social contact: some residents felt lonely, others were quite satisfied with relative solitude, while others preferred more contact but did not consider it a ‘problem’.
  • There were four common features of loneliness:
    Intellectual – feeling that care home life lacked stimulation;
    Physical – feeling that access to social activity was impeded;
    Emotional – feeling absence of a close personal connection to others;
    Institutional – feeling cut-off from the outside world.
  • Sometimes, efforts to include people in social activities went too far, with staff effectively taking over the task. If an activity cannot be adapted for someone with sight loss, the study suggests it is better to find an alternative than to superficially include those to whom it is not suited.

Resources

Video – Sight loss and loneliness in care homes

Booklet – Findings

Poster – Quick tips

Supporting those with sight loss: Quick tips that help
( https://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/SPRU_Sight_Loss_poster_A0_Landscape.pdf )
Pubs page
Social isolation and loneliness of those with sight loss in care homes
( https://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/SPRU-Sightloss-Booklet-FINAL.pdf )
Pubs page
Isolation and loneliness in people with sight loss in care homes (the INSIGHT project)
( https://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/SSCR-research-findings_RF120.pdf )
Pubs page