Family carers of people with learning disabilities are often unique amongst carers in that they will experience a lifetime of caring. A son, daughter or sibling with learning disabilities, who may have been expected to have a short lifespan 30 or 40 years ago, may now be living a longer and more fulfilling life.
The World Health Organisation defines learning disabilities as “a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind.”
This means that somebody with a learning disability will have difficulties understanding, learning and remembering. These difficulties will have an effect on their ability to interact socially, to communicate with others, to learn new things, and sometimes to undertake physical tasks.
Negotiating the health, education and social care systems through infancy, childhood and adulthood is a daunting task and at each stage can bring increased challenges and unwelcome changes for both carer and the person being cared for. As for all carers having a break, finding support and getting the best and most appropriate services are key but for carers of people with learning disabilities these needs must be seen in the context of this lifetime of caring.