Learning Disabilities and Dementia People with learning disabilities who develop dementia generally do so at a younger age. A person with a significant learning disability will already have some differences in their thinking, reasoning, language or behaviour, and their ability to manage daily living. It is a change or deterioration in these, rather than a single assessment, that may suggest dementia.
This means families, carers and others play an important part in helping to identify early signs of dementia and any concerns should be raised with the person’s GP or learning disability team. The process for assessment and diagnosis for possible dementia is similar to that for the general population, however a learning disability does make the diagnosis more complicated and is therefore best made by a memory service specialising in the needs of adults with learning disabilities. Down’s Syndrome and Dementia.
There is a greatly increased risk of developing dementia among people with Down’s syndrome It is recommended that every adult with Down’s Syndrome is assessed at 30 years of age to provide a record or baseline with which future assessments can be compared. It may be necessary to repeat the assessment periodically before a diagnosis of dementia is made. As well as this baseline assessment an annual health check should be completed.
This health check should lead to referral to a specialist if needed. Assessment and diagnosis of dementia is best done by a memory service specialising in the needs of adults with learning disabilities. A range of assessment tools have been developed specifically for people with Down’s Syndrome or other learning disabilities.