Care and support of people growing older with learning disabilities

April 11, 2018

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a new guideline on care and support of people growing older with learning disabilities.

NICE says people growing older with learning disabilities need to have annual health checks to help them manage conditions that can quickly affect them as they grow older.

The new guidance advises health and social care workers to help organise regular health assessments for older people with learning disabilities because they may find it difficult to express their needs and be heard. Older people with learning disabilities are more likely to develop serious health problems such as epilepsy or pneumonia. They are more likely to die from these conditions because of late diagnosis. They may also find it hard to access health services because of hearing or sight problems.

Discussions about changes that may occur with age are crucial to help people monitor their own health, the guidance says.

NICE advises that annual health checks are recorded in a ‘health action plan’ that can be updated annually. This personalised plan details what help and support the individual needs to stay healthy and provides other information about support needs and lifestyle issues.

Giving people with learning disabilities clear and regular information is essential to help people get the help they need and prevent late diagnosis of age-related conditions.

As time passes, ageing carers and families may have to explore other care arrangements for those needing support. For instance, if there is a death in the family or the person needs to move house.

The guideline describes how to help people with learning disabilities as they grow older receive appropriate support at the right times, preventing delays in care. It says staff should be proactive and set up plans in advance which take into account each person’s hopes and wishes, and whom they want to spend time with. They should also consider the needs of family members and carers and help people with learning disabilities maintain important relationships.

The guideline also advises local authorities to ensure there are opportunities for people growing older with learning disabilities to socialise and be active in their communities. NICE says people with learning disabilities should be able to live a good life as they grow older.

The guideline is intended for providers of social care, health and housing support, practitioners, commissioners and people with a strategic role in assessing and planning local services, and people with learning disabilities, their families, carers and advocates.

It has been developed to help commissioners and providers identify, plan and provide for the care and support needs of people growing older with learning disabilities and their families and carers. It covers integrated commissioning and planning; service delivery and organisation; providing accessible information, advice and support; identifying and assessing people’s changing needs; care planning; and supporting access to services including health, social care, housing and end of life care.

Rhidian Hughes has written for CMM on the role of providers in tackling health inequalities face by people with learning disabilities. 

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