Health Issues for Adults with Down Syndrome

Date: Sept 15, 2001

Are regular check-ups a good idea?

Many adults with Down syndrome are healthy, but they still need regular health care. People with Down syndrome should see their family doctor for regular check-ups. Perhaps you have an adult child with Down syndrome, or a brother or sister with this condition. Your relative needs the same care as all adults. You should also help your relative with special medical problems that are more common in people with Down syndrome. For example, your relative should be checked for thyroid disease, arthritis, and vision, hearing and cervical spine problems.

How can I help my relative with Down syndrome have a full life?

If you plan carefully, your relative can lead a more independent life. Common areas to plan for include the following:

* Housing options such as group homes, supervised independent living or family-owned independent housing. It's good to make plans for your relative to live independent of you.

* Work options such as sheltered workshops, supported employment and regular employment, with or without a job coach. Employment and social activities add increased meaning to life and may encourage responsible independence in your relative.

* Recreation options such as adult day care, the Special Olympics and other activities that involve exercise and hobbies or interests.

* Special estate planning, education beyond high school and self-help training.

My older relative is having some new problems. Could it be Alzheimer's disease? Many parents or guardians are concerned about Alzheimer's disease (a kind of dementia). It occurs at an earlier age in persons with Down syndrome, but usually not before the age of 40. However, mental health and medical problems can sometimes look like Alzheimer's disease. You won't want to just assume that the change in your relative is caused by dementia. There may be another reason for the change in behavior.

RELATED ARTICLE: Useful Resources for Parents and Guardians of Adults with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Clinic of WisconsinWeb address: Access to health maintenance flowchartsDown Syndrome Health Issues, by Len Leshin, M.D., F.A.A.P.Web address: A doctor whose son has Down syndrome offers information on the condition, including alternative therapies.Denison Down Syndrome QuarterlyWeb address: Complete health care guidelines informationNational Down Syndrome CongressTelephone: 1-800-232-6372Web address: General information and parent groupsNational Down Syndrome SocietyTelephone: 1-800-221-4602Web address: http://www.ndss.orgGeneral information and parent groupsLocal Parent Information Group or Association forRetarded Citizens (ARC) Check your local Yellow Pages.One of the national organizations or your local health department (see the Yellow Pages) may also be able to help you with information about local resources.Some behaviorchanges Possible reasonTalks to self Stress; some self-talk is normalWithdrawn Depression, stress, medical problemAggressive Depression, stress, medical problem

COPYRIGHT 2001 American Academy of Family PhysiciansCOPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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