The issues associated with ageing are relatively new for adults with Down syndrome and their families.
With improvements to general health, medical interventions and over all education and well being, people with Down syndrome now have an average life expectancy of 55 to 60 years, with quite a few people living into their 70s. As a result we are seeing some of the conditions of ageing that are well known in the general population, however they appear at an earlier age in people with Down syndrome.
Hearing loss, visual deterioration, arthritis, skin changes and early onset dementia are some of the possible conditions which may impact on a person as they age.
It is important to have annual health checks with a GP who knows the person well and can pick up on changes. Families and supporters may like to keep examples of the person’s creative or written work. Also noting changes to communication, activities and behaviours can help with diagnosis.
Changes to lifestyle factors may also impact on a person; moving to a new home, leaving a job or day service, loss of contact with family or friends or bereavements can all have an effect emotionally. The person may become withdrawn, angry, easily upset and could have depression. Exploring medical and emotional causes of changed behaviour or cognitive function, is essential before drawing the conclusion that a person has dementia.