According to research carried out by the NHS, there are more than one million people living with a learning disability in the UK. There are many different types of learning disabilities, and each person is unique, but there are some practical tips to bear in mind when it comes to caring for someone who may take longer to learn new things, require help understanding written information, or find it difficult to communicate with others.
What is a learning disability?
So, what is a learning disability? Simply put, learning disabilities affect the way a person understands information and how they communicate. Types of learning disabilities differ hugely, and can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. As such, some people are able to live independently with minimal support, but those with more severe or profound learning disabilities may require 24 hour care. Some learning disabilities are diagnosed at birth (for example, Down’s Syndrome), but others may not be diagnosed until the child is old enough to walk or talk. There are many types of learning disabilities, with some of the most well-known including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, written language disorder and non-verbal learning disabilities.
Caring for someone with learning disabilities
When it comes to caring for someone with learning disabilities, it’s important to ensure the person you’re supporting has the same choice, rights and responsibilities as everyone else. Those living with specific learning difficulties should be enabled to understand information and instructions, make decisions, learn new skills and have friends. For this to happen, it’s important to bear the following in mind:
- Communication. To be an effective communicator with people who have learning disabilities, it’s important to use accessible language. This means avoiding jargon and long words that may be difficult to understand. You should also be prepared to use different communication tools, such as easy read symbols, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication Systems) and tablet computers that can enlarge words. Follow the lead of the person you’re communicating with, speak at their pace and try to be creative.
- Routine. For certain types of learning disabilities, such as autism, routine is crucial. A lack of routine can result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty around the future. Most of us like life to be somewhat predictable as it makes us feel secure, and this is even more crucial for those living with learning disabilities. Well established routines can help to reduce anxiety and build confidence in knowing what will happen next, how people around them will behave and what they will need to do.
- Personal support. When it comes to caring for someone with learning disabilities, you may be required to assist with personal care, including eating, drinking, toileting and ensuring levels of hygiene are maintained. Remember that needing help in this way could make the person you are caring for feel vulnerable, so make sure to do so in a sensitive, respectful and dignified way.
- Engagement. For those with learning disabilities, engaging in meaningful activity can make a huge difference. It’s important to explore the interests and hobbies of the person you’re caring for, and to facilitate them in a way that instils a sense of independence. Whether it’s cooking a meal, visiting a friend or taking a walk in the park, these activities can all lead to an active and enjoyable life.
- Remembering things. We all have trouble remembering things from time to time, but learning difficulties can make this even harder (for example, if information is only given verbally). Be patient and prepared to repeat and explain things. The following tips may help:
– Break information into ‘chunks’ and give a little at a time
– Give a cue to help remember an intention to do something
– Use calendars, diaries and timetables, and help to adapt them
– Help to write notes and make lists
– Put items in a visible place where they can’t be missed (e.g. by the front door)
– Check what has been remembered and understood
Live-in care for those living with learning disabilities
With tailored live-in care from IP Homecare, those living with learning disabilities can lead a full, rewarding and independent life. Our support ranges from domestic help to more personal and emotional assistance, helping with areas such as communication and social skills. When we meet with you or your loved one, we take into account your individual circumstances and requirements to devise a detailed care plan in line with your specific needs.
If you think that live-in care may be the right option for you or your loved one, contact our friendly team today to discuss your requirements. You can also call us on 0808 163 9564 to arrange a free care assessment.