When we are told about Down syndrome, we immediately think of the face of a child or young person we know who has the typical features of this trisomy. However, it is increasingly common to meet adults with Down syndrome. Today we can say that the life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome in our country has multiplied over the last 30 years, going from an average of 25 years of life in the 80-90 years to an average of 60 years of life today.
This increase in life expectancy is mainly due to an increase in the quality of life of these people, above all thanks to medical advances that have managed to correct or prevent the typical complications that can appear in a person with DS, such as congenital heart disease, leukaemia, repeated infections… But also, thanks to individual factors and the inclusion of these people in society.
We are therefore faced with an increasingly older and, in turn, aging population of people with Down syndrome, as the aging process in DS is more rapid than in the general population. With a series of disorders associated with the aging process, to which we must add that due to their genetic characteristics they are more likely to develop an Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Disorders in adults with Down syndrome
Some of the disorders that we can find in an adult with DS are the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- Sensory deficits
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Other psychological disorders
- Sleep Apnea
- Hyper or hypothyroidism
- Vitamin B12 deficit
- Chronic pain associated with age
- Celiac disease
- Metabolic diseases
We are faced with the difficulty that many of these disorders cause similar symptoms, which can lead to confusion, thus masking the true cause of the disorders. For this reason, it is essential that a correct differential diagnosis be made by the professionals who care for the person with DS. This requires diagnostic tests that allow us to rule out physical pathologies and also the use of diagnostic tests that have been standardized and validated for people with intellectual disabilities, such as CAMDEX-DS.
The Occupational Center of Fundación Down Zaragoza welcomes users with intellectual disabilities from the age of 18. Given the characteristics of the people we work with, we have protocolized the performance of these tests periodically, in order to detect changes in the cognitive faculties of our users, and thus, anticipate this process of premature aging. These tests are passed to all users equally, regardless of their age, in order to draw a baseline that will later serve as a comparison, but we place special emphasis on those people who are over 35, since it is from this age group onwards that the probability of AD appearing in people with Down Syndrome increases.
Individualized Care Plan
Once we have seen the needs of the people we work with, we set individualized objectives for each of them, which are reflected in an Individualized Care Plan (IAP) and then we design a global intervention program, which we implement in the day-to-day life of the users. We try to ensure that the activities we propose are varied, in order to offer them continuous, motivating and, above all, meaningful stimulation in their daily lives.
Activities for people with Down syndrome
Some of the activities for people with Down syndrome that we do throughout the week are
1. Cognitive training with the online platform NeuronUP
We chose this online platform because we found it very versatile, since it is highly customizable and its use is very agile and intuitive for the professional. Besides, it has turned out to be very attractive and stimulating for the users, who carry out a weekly session in a digital platform either individually in a computer or tablet or in a group with the help of the digital blackboard.
2. Training Activities of Daily Living
We work the activities of daily life in order to maintain and enhance the autonomy of our clients, helping them to improve their daily performance. We also work with autonomous leisure groups, which are in charge of managing their leisure time together with their friends, periodically designing the outings they most want to do in the city and looking for the resources and means they need to do so.
3. Social skills
The training of social skills is fundamental in intellectual disability, since it happens, that in certain situations it is complex for them to understand the social context in which they develop, as well as the identification and recognition in an effective way of the feelings that are produced in the own person and in the others.
4. Urban garden
We go all year round to an urban garden, which we cultivate, care for and harvest at different times of the year.
5. Training activity
We offer a variety of activities tailored to the preferences of our users, including newspaper, radio, adult education, horticulture, etc.
6. Body activity
Throughout the year we carry out different activities to keep our users physically active, among which we find psychomotor skills, zumba and an inclusive dance project.
7. Manipulative activity
We handcraft details for weddings, baptisms, communions, diaper cakes for newborns, personalized cloth bags and many other products of our own making. We also carry out manipulative work for external companies.
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8. Community Activities
A sense of community and social contact is fostered in order to combat urban social problems like loneliness and isolation.
9. Recreational activities
Through recreational activities we increase the strength of a community and allow the sharing of cultural and ethnic differences.
10. Visits, trips
And a long etc. of activities for people with Down’s syndrome take place throughout the week in Down Zaragoza.
At Fundación Down Zaragoza, we will continue to work hard to create new projects that adapt to and cover the needs of people with intellectual disabilities throughout their adult lives and especially during their aging period.