There have been multiple recent reports regarding the inequalities in palliative and end of life care for people with learning disabilities; but little if any attention paid to the role of learning disability nurses working in palliative care.
Children’s hospices often have a well-established cohort of learning disability nurses in their employment. This has not currently translated into adult palliative care; increasingly though, children with complex neuro-disabilities and life-limiting conditions are living into adulthood with good care, and need specialist symptom management and end of life care through transition into adult services. Adults with learning disabilities and other complex health conditions are also now living into later life and are more likely to develop age related illnesses such as cancers, heart failure etc., rather than dying from an acute episode related to epilepsy, for example. Learning disability nurses bring a specialist skill set in supporting people with a known LD diagnosis, but also those with acquired cognitive impairment, those in mental distress, people with communication difficulties and autistic people.
A Learning Disability Nurse may recognise undiagnosed learning or support needs in patients, and be able to provide strategies to ameliorate those needs. The author would like to present a narrative on her experiences of moving into palliative care and how Learning Disability Nurses can provide a new perspective and skill set within the specialist palliative care team.
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