Learning disabilities, autism and dementia

Posted: 14 May 2023

Brandon team leader, Roxy, talks about supporting people with a learning disability or autism, who may also be experiencing dementia.

Selfie photo of Roxy and her mum

Hello. My name’s Roxy. I’m a Brandon team leader and I have a keen interest in dementia, in both my professional and personal life.

Getting a dementia diagnosis

For people who are experiencing dementia, it can sometimes be difficult to get a diagnosis. It can be especially hard if other factors are involved, for example, if the person has a learning disability or if they communicate non-verbally.

In my opinion, when investigating whether an individual has dementia, particularly the people we support at Brandon, there must be a person-centred approach. This is the approach we take to ensure we are really meeting peoples’ individual needs.

As part of their wider support network, we must obtain the crucial information and understanding to support them through the struggles they may be facing and enable them to have a meaningful and fulfilling experience for the whole of their lives, including their later years.

Recognising the individual

When it comes to dementia, I believe there is a lack of provision made for people with a learning disability or autism. The symptoms of dementia can be masked by other conditions that person may have, which makes a diagnosis difficult. This, in turn, can also affect the support that is available to them.

During my career I have supported individuals with dementia, but there should never be a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting their needs. It is obviously all about recognising the individual and adapting to their changing circumstances. Nothing stays the same, so a person-centred approach is critical.

Brandon offers general dementia training for support staff and I am currently working with the learning and development team to make our training more comprehensive.

If you are interested in developing a deeper understanding, I can highly recommend the Alzheimer’s Society website, where you can find a wealth of knowledge and information on learning disabilities and dementia. The resources are very insightful and well worth a visit, especially if you are a support worker.

My personal challenge

On a more personal level, I’m taking on a challenge in honour of my mum who had dementia and sadly passed away in February. Whilst she was unwell, I lost the person she used to be, but I treasured every moment and acknowledged her for who she was.

I am pledging to run, walk, hop, skip, and jump, 26 miles at Stonehenge in September. If you’d like to support me, please visit my JustGiving page. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

Roxanne Pollard
Team Leader

More information

You can find a wealth of knowledge and information on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

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