Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities Gateshead Council

Autism Services Directory

Most people with a learning disability have chronic disorders, illnesses or disabilities in addition to the learning disability itself. They are at much greater risk of injuries than the general population because they often have less capacity to assess risk, and have high rates of epilepsy, sensory impairments and mobility problems. They are four times more likely than the rest of us to suffer from anxiety and depression, which may result from the stress they experience in coping with dependence on others, unemployment and lack of friends. They may also lead sedentary lifestyles, and people with a learning disability have rates of obesity double that of the rest of the population. Many people with a learning disability have problems accessing appropriate medical care. In some cases, families and support workers may mis-interpret expressions of pain as ‘challenging behaviour’, or may regard illnesses as an untreatable aspect of the learning disability. But a more common problem is that many healthcare workers have problems communicating with patients with a learning disability, and are concerned about their capacity to consent to intrusive examinations or routine health screenings. It is therefore essential that healthcare workers are trained in working with people with a learning disability, or can call on people with this expertise, whether in primary care or in hospitals. As a result of all these factors, people with a learning disability have, on average, shorter lives than the rest of the population. The average age at death for men is 65 years, and 63 years for women. This is 13 years less than the life-expectancy for men and 20 years less than the life-expectancy for women in the general population. For people with profound learning disability, the median age at death is 46 years.

At St Albans Medical Group we offer annual reviews for all patients with a learning disability and liaise with the learning disability co-ordinator where possible.

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