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Life-saving help for carers

A MAJOR new project aims to save lives by helping carers recognise ill health in people with learning disabilities and autism.

They are more prone to chronic health problems than the rest of the population and often more susceptible to acute conditions.

And a recent report by Public Health England found people with learning disabilities are at four times the average risk of death from Covid-19.

But as a learning disability can affect the way a person understands and communicates information, this can make it challenging for carers to recognise the acute and often rapid deterioration that occurs when people become ill.

This can result in delayed treatment, which can be fatal in cases like sepsis, where medical intervention is needed quickly.

So now a research team at Northumbria University has joined forces with regional NHS Trusts and other partners to examine how carers recognise and then manage illness in people with learning disabilities and autism.

The project aims to design effective training for carers so they are more able to spot warning signs of illness and quickly access medical help.

Dr Jane Greaves, leading the project at Northumbria’s University’s Department of Nursing Midwifery and Health, said: “Having worked for many years in intensive care, I know what an impact early recognition, timely assessment and management can have on patient outcomes.

“Carers often have really good instincts about changes in the person they care for, but it can be difficult to describe those changes in words and know how to express their concerns effectively when seeking professional help.

“If we can understand the experiences of carers in seeking medical help and explore the impact of using early warning tools and education, we will hope to shape the future of care responses and health outcomes for many people with a learning disability or autism who become suddenly ill”.

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