Nurses’ experience of caring for people with intellectual disability and dementia

Josephine Cleary and Owen Doody

Aims and objectives. To explore nurses’ experiences of caring for older people with intellectual disability and dementia.

Background. Ageing and dementia prevalence is increasing along with the life expectancy of people with intellectual disability. As a population group, people with intellectual disability have a high prevalence of dementia, which is higher within the subpopulation of Down syndrome. People with intellectual disability live in residential care, community or residential settings, and nurses are required to adapt their practices to meet the changed needs of the individual.

Design. A qualitative Husserlian descriptive phenomenological methodology facilitated the researcher to become absorbed in the quintessence of meaning and explore nurses’ experience of working with older people with intellectual disability and dementia.

Methods. Ethical approval was obtained, and data were collected utilising semistructured interviews (n = 11). Interviews were transcribed and analysed using Colaizzi’s framework for data analysis.

Results. Three key themes were identified: ‘knowledge of dementia’, ‘personcentred care’ and ‘transitioning within the service’. The study highlights the need for proactive planning, life story books of the patient, and funding to support client and staff.

Conclusions. Overall, the study highlights the importance of knowing the person, supporting the individual and recognising presenting behaviours as outside the control of the individual. Relevance to clinical practice. This article presents the experiences of nurses caring for the older person with intellectual disability and dementia. Transitions are often very difficult for both the person and their peers, and they experience benefit from the efforts of a multidisciplinary team facilitating a person-centred approach.

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