Community Care, 4 February 2010: Book review

Down’s Syndrome and Dementia: A resource for carers and support staff (2nd edition)

By Karen Dodd, Vicky Turk and Michelle Christmas BILD Publications ISBN 9781905218080

Life expectancy for people with Down’s syndrome has increased dramatically over recent decades, writes Mark Haslam. Less widely known is that, due to genetic ­factors, individuals with Down’s syndrome are highly likely to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as they age, especially when they pass 50.

This resource manual is aimed at carers and those supporting people with both conditions.

It meticulously details issues connected with health, behaviour and daily living skills that may arise as dementia progresses. Written from a social model perspective, it gives solution-focused suggestions for care givers to adopt. It emphasises the need for comfort and security rather than goal setting as dementia progresses and abilities are impaired.

This new edition includes reference to the importance of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in decision-making and to recent policy initiatives in dementia care, calling for more awareness and more co-ordinated services to support those with Down’s syndrome and dementia.

A strength of the book is its holistic approach. Where it cannot help (for example, in offering emotional support or specific health advice) it offers clear suggestions as to where to turn.

It has the potential to be of real practical benefit and is clearly written in accessible language. I like the way it highlights the fact that carers are often older people with specific needs of their own in interdependent relationships.

Mark Haslam is a social worker in an older people’s community mental health team

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