Ageing matters: Pathways for older people with learning disabilities

Reviewed by Dr Deirdre Stone, M.Med.Sc., M.R.C.Psych., Psychiatrist

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This is an extremely important topic because of the growth in numbers of the elderly and the increasing need to provide them with specialised services. The study unit comes in six sections, covering a wide variety of topics: the effects of ageing, how to provide day-to-day support, leisure activities, physical and mental health in the ageing population with learning disabilities. There is also a section on the managerial role and the provision of services. Finally, Unit 4 is an excellent section on working with families.

The units come in the form of six booklets which are attractively laid out. The language used is simple, clear and non-technical, although at times I felt it was somewhat repetitive. However, when being introduced to a new concept, repetition may be helpful.

Each unit is comprehensive and insightful on its subject, and offers very practical advice—for example, on ways of dealing with hearing loss and preparing to visit the doctor. The leisure section even advises on risk assessment. I felt the section on stress and bereavement (Unit 2) and the mental health overview (Unit 3) were very good. In all, this package covers every aspect of day-to-day living for the older person with learning disability.

Unit 6, service organisation and service options, has more relevance in the UK than in Ireland, although there are similarities between the service structures. Other units also refer to the UK, but generally with an obvious Irish equivalent. Unit 6 also discusses the role of managers and their options, and is interesting from the clinician’s point of view.

Overall, I felt that this series would be a very useful adjunct to learning for care workers who are beginning to work with elderly persons with learning disability, and also as a tool for revision and a refresher course to enable long-standing care workers to review their role and what they can offer. This package can be used as a comprehensive overview of the needs of this ever-expanding group of people.

Ageing matters: Pathways for older people with learning disabilities. British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) (First Draft Publications Series), 6 units, stg£50-00 + p&p (ISBN 1 873791 49 6). Available from BILD Publications, Plymbridge Distributors, Plymbridge House, Estover Road, Plymouth PL6 7PZ (tel: 0044-01752 202300; fax: 0044-01752 202333).

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