People with learning disabilities are now living significantly longer. The population of older people with learning disabilities will increase 4 times faster than the overall adult learning disability population (see People with learning disabilities in England. Emerson and Hatton 2008). As they grow older, people with learning disabilities have many of the same age-related health and social care needs as other people but they also face specific challenges associated with their learning disability. Many people with learning disabilities, especially those with milder disability, are not known to health or social services (see People with learning disabilities in England 2013. Public Health England 2014), whereas others may find it difficult to express their needs and be heard. Management of their needs will therefore be more complex than for other populations. This will create substantial pressure on services, which has not yet been fully quantified.
The purpose of this guideline is to help commissioners and providers identify, plan and provide for the care and support needs of people growing older with learning disabilities and their families and carers. It covers integrated commissioning and planning; service delivery and organisation; providing accessible information, advice and support; identifying and assessing people's changing needs; care planning; and supporting access to services including health, social care, housing and end of life care. It aims to ensure that people with learning disabilities are given the help they need to access a range of services as they grow older so they can live healthy and fulfilled lives.
The guideline covers care and support in all settings, including people's homes and family homes, temporary accommodation, supported living (see the KeyRing network and Shared Lives schemes) and specialist accommodation. It also covers day services, residential and nursing homes, and primary and secondary healthcare.
A specific age limit is not used in this guideline because adults with learning disabilities typically experience age-related difficulties at different ages, and at a younger age, than the general population. The guideline does not cover people on the autistic spectrum who do not have a learning disability.
This guideline complements statutory duties and good practice as set out in relevant legislation and guidance. The recommendations cross-refer to legislation and other guidance where appropriate. Relevant legislation and guidance includes:
Safeguarding is the responsibility of all practitioners. Practitioners must be familiar with, and follow, their local safeguarding procedures.