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More than ever we have to consider the specific care needs of the over 60s. Learning Disability Week 2014 focuses on the needs of older people and what choices and support exist for them.
Predictions based on recent research suggest that by 2030 the number of adults aged over 70 using services for people with learning disabilities will more than double. Despite all of the concerns that the health needs of people with learning disabilities are at risk of being overlooked, we are still faced with a growing number of elderly people who require specific support and wider understanding.
Needs will change
It’s highly likely that you are supporting someone who is approaching retirement age and even if they have never had work to retire from, they are entering a period of their life where their needs will change. It is essential that you consider how you will support them to enjoy a healthy and active life whilst being aware of the physical and mental changes that lie ahead.
For people with some conditions, such as Down’s Syndrome, aging can begin to impact sooner than in the general population. Given that a risk factor for Down’s Syndrome is maternal age, this is often combined with the loss or incapacity of the family carers. For lots of people with learning disability living at home with mum and dad, there is a point at which this support will be compromised by changes in parental health and wellbeing. Often this is when many people with learning disability enter the direct care system for the first time.
Toolkit for care providers
Services need to be aware of the actions they should take to meet the needs of older residents. Work undertaken jointly with the Association for Real Change (ARC) and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities resulted in the launch of a toolkit for care providers earlier this year.
Designed to be used in conjunction with Real Change Challenges, (http://arcuk.org.uk/realchangechallenges/) the toolkit is used to evaluate the quality of services provided against eight outcomes, which cover the key areas of good health care, continued independence and choice and, crucially, the need to remain in control over what happens in life for people as they age. The toolkit provides links to resources for learning and improvement and helps develop an action plan for service providers to ensure they achieve best practice for those they support.
The toolkit can be downloaded at http://arcuk.org.uk/realchangechallenges/files/2014/03/Growing-older-evaluation-toolkit_interactive.pdf
To supplement this, BILD has a wealth of useful facts and resources for providers and carers on its website www.bild.org as part of its Ageing Well campaign. With so much excellent material available, I recommend providers connect with these sources and work towards excellence in caring for older people.
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