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Services should recognise people with learning disabilities are living longer

People with learning disabilities are living longer and services need to reflect this, delegates heard at the Learning Disability Practice Conference 2017 in Manchester.

People with learning disabilities are living longer and services need to reflect this, delegates heard at the Learning Disability Practice Conference 2017 in Manchester.


Jim Ridley speaking at the Learning Disability Practice Conference 2017 in Manchester.
Picture: Neil O'Connor

Edge Hill University senior lecturer Jim Ridley said: ‘When we think about people with learning disabilities, we know there has been a significant rise in life expectancy over the last 60 years and longer.

‘Currently life expectancy is around 60. In the 1930s, people were living until about their 20s.’ 

Active disadvantage

Mr Ridley said he recognised keeping active in older age was a challenge for all people, but said those with learning disabilities could be particularly disadvantaged.

This included diagnostic overshadowing, where staff do not realise people are ill or their condition is deteriorating because of their complex needs.

He also outlined a need to adapt existing procedures and services for older people.

‘Frailty is well-established. There’s loads of pathways in general and older people's nursing,’ he said.

‘But what happens when somebody is 20, has a learning disability and meets all the characteristics of frailty?

‘Likewise, people with learning disabilities in their 50s, or early 60s.

‘How well are they supported or encouraged to access that level of service and supervision?'

Maximisation

He spoke of ‘active ageing’ and how this is aimed at maximising everybody’s physical and mental well-being throughout their life.

Mr Ridley said nurses working with all older people are struggling to get other areas of practice to understand the needs of an older population, and so learning disability nurses had a ‘really big job on our hands’ to further raises issues associated with a ‘potentially very vulnerable group’ become older and living longer.

‘This concept of active ageing needs further development for people with learning disability.’

Mr Ridley also considered the issue of people with learning disabilities sometimes becoming carers for older relatives.

 


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