Adults with Down syndrome show
undeniable signs of premature aging within their brains, and these features are
detectable with routine MRIs. Some people with Down syndrome begin aging
more rapidly once they reach their middle 30s, showing graying hair and physical
slowness. Cognitive function often declines with age in adults with Down syndrome
age, particularly in tasks that require planning and attention. Intellectual deterioration
occurs whether the adult lives at home or in an institutional setting. Also, adults
with Down syndrome show decreased competency in both activities of daily living
and cognitive skills as they age, even more so than adults with other forms of
Adults with Down syndrome
generally show signs of accelerated aging that affects their functional abilities,
more so than Alzheimers disease. Individuals with Down syndrome showed
age-related declines about ten years earlier than the general population. Their
personal and community living skills may decline significantly as adaptive behaviors
deteriorate. However, auditory processing and comprehension knowledge continue
to grow well beyond age 50.
aging in adults with Down syndrome involves only physical changes, and living
skills will not be affected.
Adults with Down syndrome are
at increased risk for a variety of other diseases and disorders which significantly
affect their ability to perform activities of daily living. In one study, almost
half of the adults had abnormal thyroid function, and one out of two had moderate
to severe vision loss. Seventy percent of them had moderate, severe, or very severe
hearing loss that was not previously diagnosed. The researchers strongly recommend
a regular screening of all adults with Down syndrome to detect early dementia,
epilepsy, hypothyroidism, and early loss of visual acuity or hearing. (Buggenhout,
1999) Clearly, many of these disorders can be treated once they are identified.
Successful treatment can improve the functional status of the adult with Down
Research is continuing to
see how much of the decline in function can be attributed to the normal, albeit
premature, aging in individuals with Down syndrome and how much is caused by
Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. Nurses who work with adults
with Down syndrome are in a good position to identify signs of aging that may
impact the patients ability to function at home and in the community.
The following changes should be reported to the patients primary healthcare
provider for further diagnosis and possible treatment:
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Changes in long and/or
short term memory
- New onset of seizures,
or change in seizure patterns
- Changes in the patients
ability to perform activities of daily living
Its also important
to encourage regular screenings for dementia, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, hearing
loss, and visual impairments.
an adult with Down syndrome has increasing difficulty taking care of himself,
its important to screen for a variety of disorders.