Caring for the Older Adult With Sensory Impairment

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Sensory impairment in vision, hearing, taste, touch, or smell is a serious issue for older adults. Minimizing the impact of sensory impairments is important to maintain independent living, health, and improve quality of life (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010). The home healthcare clinician should assess for sensory impairments, create a plan to help the patient, and educate caregivers on how to best help those affected.
In the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), 94% of the participants experienced loss in one sense, and 67% had two or more sensory losses (Correia et al., 2016). These impairments increase with age, with vision and hearing impairments each doubling, and the loss of feeling in the feet increasing by 40% by the age of 80 years (CDC, 2010). In the NSHAP study findings:
Losing one of the five senses has been linked with cognitive decline, poor mental health, and increased mortality. Some patients lose more than one sense, which can be an indicator of neurodegeneration, with poor social and health outcomes (which can include complications from falls, burns, food poisoning, smoke inhalation, and others). About 38% of the participants in the NHSAP study had a loss of two or more senses, and 28% had three or more impairments (Correia et al., 2016). Helping patients with sensory losses can help improve their quality of life.
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