NHS in Sussex introduces dementia testing for people in their 30s with down's syndrome

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People who are in their 30s with down's syndrome are being offered a new assessment of their cognitive capabilities to detect any possible symptoms of dementia.

Down's syndrome and dementia is not inevitable but those with with learning disabilities are more likely to be diagnosed with the memory loss disease.

The healthy brain assessment being offered by the NHS in West Sussex involves tasks such as puzzles and drawing.

Although 30 may seem like a young age, health experts say it's often when memory is at its best and so, is the perfect time capture a baseline of ability so results of future tests can be compared.

  • Watch: Nuala Donaghey explains how she found the assessment.

Louise Tredgett, the care manager at Nuala's supported living house, has praised how the assessment is carried out and thinks it will be vital in being able to provide the best care to anybody who is diagnosed,

"The way they've done it is fantastic because it doesn't put too much pressure on them and it's actually activities which she [Nuala] enjoys, like drawing shapes and colouring.

"So they're getting what they need out of something she can do herself, which is really important.

"I think it highlights how important these pathways are and partnership working with other health care professionals for our services.

"Having that support is essential because we want to give them the most high quality support."

It's thought the link between dementia and down's syndrome is down to the extra genes in people with down's syndrome producing more plaque proteins.

According to figures from Dementia UK and Alzheimer's Society, people with learning disabilities are at increased risk of developing dementia.

Dementia symptoms diagnosis rate

Dr Lucy Duigan, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said,

"We get a lot of background information about that person, about their skills and abilities, about the things that they can do.

"So we want to be in a position to recognise those changes if they do occur.

"It's not about suggesting to people that we're worried about them now, we just want to be in a position to spot those changes when they do occur.

"We know that people can live really well with dementia, particularly if it's spotted early, and if people get access to the right information advice and treatment that they might need."

More information on the healthy brain assessment can be found here.