Down's Syndrome Scotland - Learning Resources

Alzheimer’s disease and people with Down’s Syndrome share a genetic connection.

This leads to the increased risk of dementia at an earlier age in comparison to the general population. This is mediated through the extra chromosome 21.

Approximately 30% of 50-59 year old people with Down’s Syndrome will develop dementia in comparison to less than 1% of the general population.

More than 75% of those aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, nearly six times greater than the general population of the same age.

    Key Point

    Many other potentially reversible conditions can present like the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. These include many of the conditions discussed in this module.



    Dementia in adults with Down’s Syndrome may present in many different ways. It is important to have reliable information from someone who knows the person well. A focus is placed on things a person previously would have been able to manage but is having difficulty with now.

    Early symptoms may include:

    • Reduced interest in being sociable
    • Decreased enthusiasm for usual activities
    • Decline in ability to pay attention
    • Sadness, fearfulness or anxiety
    • Irritability, uncooperativeness or aggression
    • Restlessness or sleep disturbances
    • Seizures that begin in adulthood
    • Changes in coordination and walking
    • Increased noisiness or excitability
    • Memory loss


    Key Point

    Where a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is suspected referral to Learning Disability Services for assessment is advised.

    If a diagnosis is made, treatment may include the use of cognitive enhancers and the involvement of the multi-disciplinary team. Social care supports may also require ongoing review in light of changing needs.


    Quick Quiz

    What percentage of people with Down’s Syndrome aged between 40-50 will have Alzheimer’s?


    Which is an early symptom of Alzheimer's?

    Reduced interest in being sociable
    Decreased enthusiasm for usual activities
    Memory loss
    Decline in ability to pay attention
    All of the above