Down Syndrome in Adults: Staying Healthy

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Are regular check-ups with a doctor necessary?

Adults who have Down syndrome need regular health care. Perhaps you have an adult child, brother or sister who has Down syndrome. Your relative needs the same preventive care as an adult who doesn't have Down syndrome. Also help your relative get checked for special medical problems that are more common in people who have Down syndrome. For example, a doctor should check your relative for thyroid disease, arthritis and problems with vision, hearing and the cervical spine.

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

With a little planning, your relative can lead a more independent life. Common things 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, hobbies and interests.
  • Special estate planning, education beyond high school and self-help training.

My older relative who has Down syndrome is having some new problems. Could it be Alzheimer's disease?

Symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease (a kind of dementia) occur at an earlier age in people who have Down syndrome (usually in their 30s). These symptoms include memory loss and personality changes. Don't immediately assume that the change in your relative is caused by dementia. There may be another reason for the change in behavior. Talk to his or her doctor about your concerns.

Some behavior changes Possible cause
Talks to self 
Stress; some self talk is normal
Withdrawal Depression, stress, medical problem
Aggression Depression, stress, medical problem

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 04/02

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