Several voluntary sector organisations call for earlier diagnosis of dementia for people with learning disabilities

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

A report published by the VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) called ‘Staying put: developing dementia-friendly care and support for people with a learning disability’ has reviewed the best way to support the growing number of people with learning disabilities with the condition.

The report confirms that the diagnosis of dementia in the general population is at its highest level. However, people with learning disabilities are five times more likely than those without to develop dementia, yet they are less likely to receive a timely diagnosis. Reasons for this are down to the fact they may show behavioural changes rather than memory loss initially and their dementia symptoms may be seen as symptoms of their learning disability.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities programme lead, Christine Burke, is of the view that early diagnosis is “key to ensuring that those there to support them receive the right training and are able to plan for the future”.

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes liked the report and said:-

“We know that a timely diagnosis is essential for anyone who has dementia. For people with a learning disability, who are at higher risk of developing dementia at a much younger age, there is an even greater need and services have a responsibility to develop their knowledge and awareness of dementia to ensure they can recognise it, diagnose it and put in place the support and services that people with learning disabilities and their families have a right to expect in order to help them live well.”

The report points out that there is a need to improve policy, planning and research in relation to people with learning disabilities and dementia, as the population of people with learning disabilities is growing due to living longer lives as a result of improvements in health and clinical practice. The members of VODG are taking practical steps to develop an evidence-based approach to offering high quality care and support services tailored to the needs of people with learning disabilities and dementia.

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