The impact of sensory impairment on social interaction between residents in care homes

Cook, G., Brown-Wilson, C. and Forte, D. (2006) The impact of sensory impairment on social interaction between residents in care homes. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 1(4), pp. 216-24. ISSN (print) 1748-3735


Aim.  The aim was to draw on older people's narratives to illuminate the experience of living in a care home and the impact that vision and hearing impairments have on the individual's ability to engage in social interactions with other residents. Methods.  The paper draws on two research studies, first, a hermeneutic inquiry examining the meaning ascribed to living in a care home, the second, a constructivist study, exploring relationships between residents, families and staff. Both studies drew on older people's narrative accounts to explore their experiences of living in a care home. On independently interpreting the narratives a similar theme emerged around the challenges to social interactions experienced by residents with sight and/or hearing impairment. This resulted in a cross study analysis to further illuminate this theme. Findings.  The cross study analysis highlighted the difficulties residents experience in interacting with others, in the home, as a consequence of sight and/or hearing impairment, and the potential impact this had on feelings of social isolation. This is illustrated through narratives from two residents, one with sight impairment and the other with hearing loss. The narratives highlight the problems these people encountered and how resilient they were in adjusting to their sensory loss and maintaining social interactions. One conclusion from the study is the need for more empirical work in this area. Relevance to clinical practice.  The paper identifies a number of issues for practice including staff taking a more proactive role in screening for, and managing, visual and hearing impairments in residents. Also the vital role staff play in ensuring the environment optimizes the residents' ability to fully engage in the residential community.

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