People with learning disabilities die on average 20 years earlier than the people that live around them irrespective of wealth, earning or geographical location.
Some of this is due to nearly 7 out of every 10 people with learning disabilities having other health conditions. The link of Downs Syndrome to early onset dementia and heart problems is well known. Less well known is the occurence of a physical disability, mental health conditions or long term illnesses in other people with learning disabilities.
Some of the things that would make people healthier are well known. More exercise and healthy diets. Easy to say but much harder to do.
Recent research into the Scottish Government’s “Walk Well” programme found that there was no lasting change for people with learning disabilities through using it. This was a 12 week programme that introduced people to walking in a structured way but when people with learning disabilities finished the course, they rarely had support workers in place who had the time to help them continue the walking programme.
People with learning disabilities have spoken about how they find “good food” to be more expensive and when they do try and buy cheaper natural ingredients it is hard for them to prepare cooked meals using these.
But health care is about much more than this, it is about the help from doctors, hospitals and NHS ‘24. In our last newsletter we wrote about Stephen Armstrong’s treatment in hospital. Many things went wrong for Stephen even though he had the support that people thought he needed.
Many people feel they have great treatment from the NHS. The nurses and doctors are nice and speak to them respectfully. There are health passports, both in booklet form and electronically. There are special nurses that are trained to help people with learning disabilities available all over Scotland.
But as Robert Burns once said, “facts are chiels that winna ding and downa be disputed.” Facts are stubborn. People with learning disabilities die earlier than the rest of the population, their health needs are often diagnosed late and many people have poor lifestyles.
So what’s going wrong? To be honest no one is really sure. We need you to tell us what is right and wrong for you or the people you support. We will find out what is happening all over Scotland and put the answers together to help make better plans for the future.