Well done to Sarah Atkinson, one of our Learning Disabilities Primary Care Liaison Nurse who has had an article published in the Nursing Times. This focuses on what nurses should consider when working with patients with learning disabilities.
The article starts 'Domestic violence and abuse is still a societal taboo and it can be difficult to raise this topic with a patient. Additional difficulties of having this conversation with someone with a learning disability means questions are seldom asked.
However, nurses are trusted and may be the first person an individual will speak to about feeling unsafe. Work targets and time pressures can make it easy to miss clues and it’s even easier to make assumptions that mean we avoid asking difficult questions. A change in culture is needed: nurses must embrace their duty to ensure the opportunities to safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in our society are not missed.
Many people with learning disabilities experience some form of abuse or discrimination, which can leave them ill-equipped to recognise it in their relationships – it becomes ‘the norm’, so they don’t seek help. Barriers to identifying abuse include assuming people don’t have intimate relationships and having a rose-tinted view of carers – not all of whom act in the best interests of the person they are looking after. There may be a power imbalance; if unnoticed or unchallenged, it can cause dependence on the perpetrator through fear of repercussions, such as having to cope living alone or being made to live in a care setting.
People with learning disabilities may have additional communication needs, so we have a greater responsibility to consider non-verbal clues (relationship dynamics, injuries, number of visits) and ensure effective communication with, for example, easy-read information and open questioning.
You can read the full article here which includes suggestions for nurses on how to approach this topic with patients.