Older People with Sight Loss - Living at Home

Date Posted: 14.01.2013

Many people who experience sight loss live in their own homes. Over half of the people currently using NCBI’s services are over the age of 65. Here you will find advice on living at home and what might make things a bit easier. We have also included information on how you can find out about other resources that may be available in your own community.

You may have recently been diagnosed with an eye condition

Sight loss at any age can be a shock and may mean having to make a variety of adjustments to your life. You may have had perfect vision for your whole life and now because of the sight loss you are experiencing you may no longer be able to drive, read your bills or recognise people’s faces. Although the eye specialist may have explained the nature of your eye condition to you, you may require more information about it and have questions that you would like answered. Our common causes of sight loss section may be able to help you here.

Contact our community resource worker

If you have not already done so, it may be helpful for you to contact your local NCBI community resource worker. You can make an appointment to see a community resource worker in your local NCBI office. They will be able to help you in a number of ways, including providing you with emotional support, assisting you in applying for entitlements and offering you practical advice and support in relation to carrying out everyday tasks independently. Your community resource worker can also refer you to some other services that you may find useful, including our low vision service, shop, library service or counselling, and can give advice on moving about safely both at home and in other places.

Help at home

Sight loss can have significant impact on a person’s life and may require changes particularly around carrying out everyday tasks safely and independently within the home. Adapting to sight loss can take time and it is important that you feel safe and comfortable in your own home. Here we aim to give you some support and advice as well as details of other resources that may be of help to you.

Keeping safe and secure

It is fairly common that people who have experienced sight loss later in life may have concerns or fears around their own safety at home. One of the most common concerns people have is about fire. Take extra care using a cooker or stove or pouring boiling water. There are practical ways that these activities can be made safer, and your community resource worker can also make some suggestions for simple adaptations that could be helpful to you. Smoke alarms should be fitted in all homes. These are relatively inexpensive and can be installed quite easily.

Since January 2005 all new gas hobs, ovens and cookers have to be sold with a flame failure device fitted. The aim of this device is to shut off the gas supply to the cooker if the flame goes out. You should also have your gas boiler, gas heater and other gas appliances serviced regularly to ensure that they meet with safety standards. For more information about servicing and for details about what steps to take if you smell gas, contact Bord Gais or call them on 1850 200 694.

Personal safety

Personal safety from intruders is another concern that you or your friends and family may have. Again there are a number of things that you can put in place to make you feel more secure at home. Firstly, a monitored personal alarm can be installed. You usually wear a pendant on your wrist or around your neck, which you can press to ask for assistance if you are unable to get to the phone. When the button is pressed, staff at the monitoring centre will be contacted and they will then alert the best person to assist you, such as a family member or the emergency services. Because the system is monitored 24 hours a day, you will be able to receive assistance immediately.

These alarms, along with other security measures such as the strengthening of doors, window locks, door chains and security lighting, can be applied for under the community support for older people scheme. Smoke alarms and outdoor security lighting can also be applied for under this scheme.

If you would like assistance to apply for any of these, contact your local community resource worker.

Consider installing an intercom system at your front door so you do not have to open the door to someone you do not know or are not expecting.

Preventing accidents around your home

There are also some very simple practical steps that can be taken in order to prevent accidents as a result of a trip or fall.
Fix and secure any loose floorboards, carpets or rugs to prevent tripping.
Highlight edges of steps and stairs using a contrasting colour, like yellow.
Install good lighting at the bottom and top of stairs and in other areas of the house where there is a slope or steps.
Use good lighting in your kitchen, particularly around worktop areas.
Install external lighting in your garden or pathway to and from the house, particulary if there are steps.
Put down non-slip flooring in the bathroom.

Residential settings


There is only one residential setting in Ireland that specifically caters for the needs of people with sight loss.

St Mary’s Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Irish Sisters of Charity
185 / 203 Merrion Road
Dublin 4
Tel: 01 269 3411

St Mary’s Centre provides residential accommodation to women with sight loss. However, most older people with sight loss move into mainstream residential settings in their own community or close to family and friends.

NCBI can offer advice, information and training to care staff working in residential settings. Find out more about practical tips for care staff. It may be helpful for NCBI staff to train care staff in how to guide a person with sight loss safely or give tips on making your new residential setting both safe and comfortable for you to live in. Please contact your local community resource worker to discuss further.

Community and local services

Apart from the support that NCBI can provide there are a number of other services which you may be able to avail of in your local area that may be useful to you.

Public health nurse

Public health nurses are employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and work from your local health centre. The public health nurse provides basic nursing as well as advice and information to patients in their own home. They also refer people to other services in the community such as the home help services and meals on wheels. Public health nurses usually keep a register of older people living in the area in which they work. You can contact your public health nurse by calling your local health centre or call the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday between 8am and 8pm.

Home help service

Home help services are provided by the HSE to assist vulnerable people with daily household tasks such as shopping, light housework and laundry. The main aim of the home help service is to support people to remain living in their own homes. Referrals to the service are made through your public health nurse and the number of hours provided depends on your needs and the availability of home helps in your area. You can be referred to this service by your public health nurse. For further information please contact your local health centre or call the HSE information line at 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday between 8am and 8pm.

Meals on wheels

Meals on wheels is a service whereby a hot meal is delivered to your home for a small cost. The service is usually provided by a voluntary organisation and you can receive a meal every day or for a set number of days in the week. To find out more about the availability of this service in your area please contact your local health centre.

Day centres

Day centres can provide a range of activities including social, recreational, medical and personal care services to older people. Many day centres are run by the HSE, although there are also day centres run by various voluntary organisations. You can be referred to these services by your doctor or public health nurse. For further information please contact your local health centre or call the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday between 8am and 8pm.

Additional community care services

Apart form the services described above, there are a number of additional services available in your community provided by the HSE which may be of benefit to you. These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy and chiropody.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists are mainly employed by the HSE. An occupational therapist can visit your home to carry out an assessment of your abilities to carry out everyday tasks safely and independently such as dressing, bathing, eating. Based on this assessment the occupational therapist will recommend any aids and appliances that may assist you with independence at home and adaptations that may be needed to your home. They will also certify whether or not you are eligible for the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability. Their services are available free of charge to medical card holders.

Alternatively, you can contact the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland for a list of occupational therapists in private practice.

Chiropody service

This service is sometimes offered by the HSE free of charge to medical card holders aged over 65 years or people with diabetes or people with disabilities.

You can be referred to these services by your doctor or public health nurse. For further information please contact your local health centre or call the HSE infoline on 1850 24 1850 Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm.

Benefits and Entitlements

There are a number of financial benefits and entitlements that older people with sight loss can apply for. To find out more about your entitlements or if you would like assistance with applying, please contact your local community resource worker and see our section on entitlements.
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