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Down Syndrome and Aging

By Kelsey Simpson

If you have an aging loved one that has Down syndrome, whether that be your sibling, cousin, or niece/nephew, and you are the caregiver, you are likely aware of the challenges this phase of life can bring. Caring for an aging adult can be difficult for family members, especially if they have no prior experience. These challenges have the potential to be heightened when the aging adult at hand has Down syndrome. 

People with Down syndrome, even those who are highly independent, may require extra support throughout life. As they age, life can become a bit more complicated and they may require specialized assistance and care. If you are the caregiver for your loved one with Down syndrome, there are some things you should know that can make both your life and your loved one’s life easier, happier, and more comfortable. This post will give you some things to consider when it comes to supporting an aging adult with Down syndrome.

Understanding Down Syndrome and Aging 

Growing older presents unexpected challenges for many people, especially for those with Down syndrome. These issues can present challenges not only for the individual, but also his or her family. The family may not know how to care for an aging adult, let alone an aging adult that has an intellectual disability. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Below are some tips for navigating this stage of life. 

Think About the Living Environment

The environment in which an aging adult is living is perhaps one of the most important aspects of living a quality life. A person’s environment has a direct impact on his or her emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. For example, an independent senior living community in NJ understands how important the environment is, and so makes sure that all residents have access to various activities, social gatherings, and medical care, all on a beautiful and scenic campus.

With that being said, as you are handling life with an aging person with Down syndrome, there are some things to consider about the living environment such as:

  • Is the living environment safe?
  • Does my loved one with Down syndrome have accessible help and care when needed?
  • Is the environment mentally and emotionally stimulating?
  • Does my loved one have the opportunity to be active and physical?
  • Would my loved one benefit more from a nursing facility than staying at home?
  • Is our family providing the best possible care?
  • Is my loved one happy?

As you consider the environment in which your loved one lives, think about what is best for his or her overall health both right now and in the future.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care 

It is unfortunately very common for adults with Down syndrome to develop either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Both illnesses make care extremely challenging for family members, and this challenge is even more difficult if the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia also has an intellectual disability. If your family member with Down syndrome is showing signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia, here are some tips to consider:

  • Hire an Alzheimer’s or dementia specialist to make this new chapter of life as easy as possible
  • Be flexible and patient
  • Do not “baby talk” to your family member but be sure to talk slowly and think about what you are saying, so as to not upset him or her
  • Avoid phrases such as: “Try to remember!” or “Do you remember?”
  • Be sure to watch for changes in daily activities
  • Make sure your home is a safe environment; get rid of any potential hazards that could hurt your loved one
  • If you choose to hire an in-home care service, hire one that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care or one that has caregivers specially trained in this kind of service

It is important to point out that diagnosing Alzheimer’s and dementia can be a bit more challenging in people with Down syndrome. Changes in memory and thinking skills can be difficult to assess in people with intellectual disabilities. Optimal medical care is critical in obtaining accurate diagnosis and developing an effective treatment plan.

Consider Caregiving Services

Caring for aging adults with Down syndrome can at times be overwhelming and stressful. Many people find it challenging to juggle their own life tasks and responsibilities, such as raising a family and maintaining a career, and providing the kind of care that a person with Down syndrome needs. One option to ensure the person with Down syndrome gets the quality care that he or she needs is to hire a caregiving service. 

Caregiving services are a form of senior care in which an employee comes to the client’s home to administer appropriate care. Senior caregiving services can be provided on a flexible schedule and will aim to keep the aging adult comfortable, cared for, and happy at home. Such services offer assistance to clients in areas including:

  • Transportation
  • Mobility assistance
  • Meal preparation
  • Grocery shopping/running errands
  • Bathing/using the bathroom

Caregivers will also provide quality conversation to their clients with the intention to lift their spirits. This kind of service is great for families that need extra assistance whether that be while they are at work, on vacation, or around the clock. Overall, the goal of a caregiving service is to alleviate family stress, which can be significant when a loved one requires extensive and specialized care. 

Give Your Loved One with Down Syndrome the Senior Care They Deserve

It us so important to provide your loved one with the care that he or she needs and deserves. As the caregiver of a family member with Down syndrome, patience is key. The aging process presents new challenges, but also new opportunities. Through kindness and compassion, you can ensure that this special phase of life is enjoyable and fulfilling for both you and your beloved family member. 

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others. She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.

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