ARK provides specialist dementia services for people with learning disabilities, including tailored accommodation and support for the person and their family.
Although there are many services and resources for people with dementia in Scotland, there is a lack of specialist dementia care for people who also have learning disabilities, and the services needed are very different. There are many reasons for this, including:
There is an increased risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, if a person has Down’s syndrome. By age 60, 55% of people with Down’s syndrome will have developed dementia.
The number of people with learning disabilities other than Down’s syndrome who also have dementia is also approximately 2-4 times higher than the general population.
Our aim is to provide homes for life and many of ARK’s service users have been receiving support from us for over 20 years.
We have developed specialist services for people with learning disabilities and dementia in order to enable people to remain in their home for life with specialist, person-centred support that will:
ARK’s first specialist service in St Andrews opened in October 2013. We also have specialist services in Edinburgh and Buckie in Morayshire.
There are three accommodation options for people with learning disabilities who develop dementia:
‘Ageing in Place’ is considered the best option for people with learning disabilities and dementia, however the financial commitment required to provide this option may make it unaffordable.
‘In Place Progression’ is considered a good mid to long-term future option. By moving to a specialist facility offering staff with specific training and skills and dementia friendly accommodation, enables individuals to remain in this accommodation for the rest of their lives.
ARK can provide help with both ‘Ageing in Place’ and ‘In Place Progression.'
We have worked in partnership with Dr Karen Watchman of Edinburgh University, who provided specialist advice, guidance and support on the design of the environment.
She has also provided person-centred training for ARK staff in supporting people to live well with dementia, providing palliative care and the importance of life history work.
ARK’s two unique services provide the opportunity for people with learning disabilities and dementia to live well with dementia by providing:
In order to create an environment where service users can feel safe and secure and maintain their abilities and independence for as long as possible, the following areas were important:
Staff have training in all aspects of providing care and support for people with Learning disabilities (LD) and dementia. The most important factor for staff is the opportunity for on-going learning and opportunities to put their skills into practice to meet the changing, individual needs of the service users.
ARK’s specialist services are provided by dedicated teams of staff so it is important that staff are supported to keep them well educated and motivated. ARK has staff with specialist knowledge and skills in LD and dementia to provide on-going learning and support for staff.
Staff identify meaningful activities for service users using life story work and input from their family. Keeping service users’ active, interested and enjoying life is very important to staying well physically and emotionally. An example of this was Sam who enjoyed gardening throughout his life and always had a beautiful garden. He worked for his local authority for many years and although he was no longer able to carry out heavier tasks, gardening remained a meaningful activity for him. Staff supported Sam to pot plants and tend the planters on his balcony. He also enjoyed the animals who visited his balcony to eat the nuts he left out.
Learning from families and welcoming their contribution to the care and support of their loved ones is important to the on-going health and well-being of our service users. The continuity of these most important relationships enables the best outcomes for service users.
For ARK, a palliative care approach is about enabling our service users to maintain and increase their quality of life in order to enjoy every day of their lives. We are also committed to supporting our service users to have the best possible end to their life at home, comfortably and surrounded by the people they love and who love them - if this is what they and their family wish. This means having excellent working relationships with community health services and planning for the best end of life care for each individual.
We’ve received feedback from service users and their families that our specialist care has helped to make their lives more comfortable and meaningful. (*can we find a testimonial?*)
Alan has Down syndrome and dementia. He has lived at ARK’s St Andrews accommodation for 25 years where he shared his flat with four other people with learning disabilities.
As Alan’s illness progressed, the unsuitability of the environment and sharing with others impacted on Alan, and his distress at times has been displayed as aggression and violence.
Alan has had to cope with hallucinations and delusions, which often leave him in tears. He has also suffered deterioration in his mobility. Alan had a lack of understanding of the changes he was experiencing, and sometimes blamed others when incidents have occurred, such as his flatmates or staff at the service.
ARK dealt with this by putting full-time one to one staff support in place for Alan and in January 2013 we helped him move into his own flat, which was designed along ‘dementia friendly’ principles. Almost immediately the quality of his life has improved. Alan has a programme of meaningful activities that are stimulating and engaging for him, and he is out and about in St Andrews almost every day. This is very important to Alan as he is well known in the community and as a result he feels valued and accepted.
Alan now feels comfortable and safe in his environment. It’s quiet, there are no surprises, and he knows where things are. There have been no incidents of aggression or violence since Alan moved, and with the use of assistive technology, he is starting to have some private time.