As people age, it is common for their visual function to decrease, which is associated with an increased risk of falling. Older adults with vision loss are twice as likely to fall than older adults without low or no vision. Vision plays a key role in the balance control required to carry out daily activities with older adults relying more heavily on visual information to maintain their balance.
People who are blind or have low vision have special needs for interpreting their environment. By following simple guidelines, you can help make their time in a clinical setting friendlier.
The Approach, Ask, Assist technique
Approach: If you suspect someone may need a hand, walk up, greet them, and identify yourself.
Ask: “Would you like some help?” The person will accept your offer or tell you if they don’t require assistance.
Assist: Listen to the reply and assist as required. Not all people who are blind or vision impaired will want assistance – don’t be offended if your assistance is not required.
Some other common courtesies that you can use as a health professional when working with someone who has low, or no vision, are:
- Use the individual’s name when addressing them so they know you are speaking to them.
- Do not walk away from a person who has low or no vision without indicating that you are doing so.
- Let the person who is blind or have low vision take your arm (see Vision Australia’s sighted guide fact sheet).
- In dangerous situations say “STOP” rather than “LOOK OUT”
- Describe the surroundings and obstacles in a person’s pathway (remember to look up as well as down). Warn of the presence of over-hangs, such as kitchen cupboards, jutting side mirrors of cars, or trees.
- Do not leave doors ajar. Close them or open them fully.
- When seating people who are blind or have low vision, put their hands on the back of the chair and they will then be able to seat themselves.
- Use accurate and specific language when giving directions. For example, “the door is on your left”, rather than “the door is over there”.
- Avoid situations where there is competing noise.
Visit Vision Australia’s website to learn more about what you can do as a health professional when working with an older adult with low or no vision in your workplace.
Injury Matters, through the Stay On Your Feet® program, and in partnership with Vision Australia WA, are hosting a 2-hour interactive workshop for health professionals on vision and falls prevention in older adults on June 2nd 2022 at 6pm. The workshop aims for health professionals to better understand how poor or reduced vision affects falls in older adults and to increase their knowledge in effective strategies to reduce falls. Read more about the upcoming vision and falls prevention in older adults training for health professionals.