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Down Syndrome in Adults: Staying Healthy

Perhaps you have an adult child, brother, or sister who has Down syndrome. Adults who have Down syndrome need regular health care too. They also may need to be checked for certain health problems that are more common in people who have Down syndrome. Examples include thyroid disease, arthritis, and problems with vision, hearing, and the cervical spine.

Path to improved health

Preventive care will help your relative stay healthy. Being able to lead an independent life can help as well. You can help your relative achieve this in the following ways.

  • It’s good to make plans for your relative to live on their own. Look at housing options such as group homes, supervised independent living, or family-owned independent housing.
  • Most adults who have Down syndrome enjoy exercise and getting involved. Ask your relative about their hobbies and interests. Options can range from adult day care to the Special Olympics.
  • Your relative may be interested in education beyond high school or specialized training. See if there are local classes, programs, or opportunities.
  • Having a job can add increased meaning to life. It may encourage your relative to become more responsible. Work options include sheltered workshops, supported employment, and regular employment.
  • Many people benefit from a local Down syndrome group or mentor. It helps to see what life is like and provides support.

Things to consider

It is important to monitor your relative for changes in behavior. People who have Down syndrome may develop symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease (a kind of dementia). This can occur earlier than normal when they are in their 30s. Symptoms may include memory loss, withdrawal, or aggression. Do not assume that your relative has dementia. There could be other causes, such as stress, depression, or a medical issue. Talk to your relative’s doctor about your concerns.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How often does my relative with Down syndrome need medical check-ups?
  • Are there certain conditions my relative is at risk for?
  • How do I know if my relative has dementia or another problem?
  • What can I do to help my relative live a more independent life?
  • Are there any exercise or job restrictions?


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