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Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education


Objectives: The objective of the current study was to understand the added effects of having a sensory impairment (vision and/or hearing impairment) in combination with cognitive impairment with respect to health-related outcomes among older adults (65+ years old) receiving home care or residing in a long-term care (LTC) facility in Ontario, Canada.

Methods: Cross-sectional analyses were conducted using existing data collected with one of two interRAI assessments, one for home care (n = 291,824) and one for LTC (n = 110,578). Items in the assessments were used to identify clients with single sensory impairments (e.g., vision only [VI], hearing only [HI]), dual sensory impairment (DSI; i.e., vision and hearing) and those with cognitive impairment (CI). We defined seven mutually exclusive groups based on the presence of single or combined impairments.

Results: The rate of people having all three impairments (i.e., CI+DSI) was 21.3% in home care and 29.2% in LTC. Across the seven groups, individuals with all three impairments were the most likely to report loneliness, to have a reduction in social engagement, and to experience reduced independence in their activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental ADLs (IADLs). Communication challenges were highly prevalent in this group, at 38.0% in home care and 49.2% in LTC. In both care settings, communication difficulties were more common in the CI+DSI group versus the CI-alone group.

Conclusions: The presence of combined sensory and cognitive impairments is high among older adults in these two care settings and having all three impairments is associated with higher rates of negative outcomes than the rates for those having CI alone. There is a rising imperative for all health care professionals to recognize the potential presence of hearing, vision and cognitive impairments in those for whom they provide care, to ensure that basic screening occurs and to use those results to inform care plans.


This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.