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Early Onset Dementia

Early Onset Dementia in people with Learning Disabilities

Advances in medical and social care have led to a significant increase in the life expectancy of people with learning disabilities. The effect of ageing on people with learning disabilities – including the increased risk of developing dementia – has become an increasingly important issue.

What is dementia? – Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of diseases that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The damage caused by all types of dementia leads to a progressive loss of brain tissue. As brain tissue cannot be replaced, symptoms become worse overtime.

Alzheimers Society

Principles of Support
The aim of the National Strategy is to ensure that significant improvements are made to dementia services across three key areas: improved awareness, earlier diagnosis and intervention, and a higher quality of care. The Strategy identifies 17 key objectives which, when implemented, largely at a local level, should result in significant improvements in the quality of services provided to people with dementia and should promote a greater understanding of the causes and consequences of dementia.

Living Well with Dementia; A National Dementia Strategy 2009.

Symptoms may include:
Loss of memory.
+ Difficulty concentrating.
+ Difficulty finding the right words or understanding what other people are saying.
+ A poor sense of time and place.
+ Difficulty completing self-care and domestic tasks.
+ Difficulty solving minor problems-mood changes.
+ Changes in behaviour.

What is special about dementia in people with learning disabilities? – There is no evidence that dementia affects people with learning disabilities differently to how it affects other people. However, the early stages are more likely to be missed or misinterpreted – particularly if several professionals are involved in the person’s care.

The person may find it hard to express how they feel their abilities have deteriorated, and problems with communication may make it more difficult for others to assess change. It is vital that people who understand the person’s usual methods of communication are involved when a diagnosis is being explored – particularly where the person involved does not use words to communicate.

The Support provided through Potens.

Specialist Dementia Support – All staff complete training in Dementia Care so that there is a broad understanding of the principles of good practice.

Some of the strategies employed include:
Use of “Life Story Books”.
Relaxation techniques-Separate quiet areas.
Use of visual labels-Individual visual planners.
Structured routines.
Pictorial year books.

The physical layout of homes is ideally suited to provide quiet space with the option of individuals spending time in their own room. Homes have lift access to upper floors as well as ground floor bedrooms and can cater for people with limited mobility, thereby making them ideal long term homes for people with learning disabilities as they get older.

Potens offers a range of services for people with learning disabilities and early onset dementia, please see our Locations page for information about services in your area, or please contact us to find out more or to make a referral.

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