Learning disability dementia service launches

26 October 2022

A new service that aims to spot the early signs of dementia for people with a learning disability has launched in West Sussex.

The Community Learning Disability Team in West Sussex run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is delivering the service as people with learning disabilities and Down Syndrome are more likely to have memory problems as they get older. Sussex Partnership provides mental health, learning disability and neurodevelopmental services across South East England. 

The new service includes a healthy brain assessment for individuals with Down syndrome, who are over 30 years old, to identify early signs of dementia, and a memory assessment for older people with a learning disability who are experiencing signs and symptoms of dementia. 

People with Down syndrome who are 30 years old or above, and have a GP based in West Sussex, are being invited to come forward for a healthy brain assessment. During the assessment they will be asked to carry out some fun activities, like puzzles and tasks, when their memory is at its best to help identify if there are any changes as they get older.

For older aged adults with a learning disability the team is offering a dementia assessment where people will be asked about how they are feeling and asked to complete some tasks to test their memory. Following the assessment the team will work together with the individual, their carer, and GP, to offer diagnosis and post diagnosis support to ensure people receive support that is right for them.

Viki Baker, Clinical Director for Learning Disability and Neurobehavioral services, said:

"People with Down syndrome are at an increased risk of developing dementia. We are very pleased to offer this new screening service to help establish people's baseline skills so that we can pick up any changes as soon as possible to make an effective early diagnosis of dementia. This will help us, and partners, provide the ongoing support people need in a timely way to enable them to live well with their learning disability and dementia." 

If you know someone over 30 years old with Down syndrome, or you're concerned about someone with a learning disability who is displaying signs of dementia, please watch the films below or visit the Community Learning Disability Team webpage for further details.