BACKGROUND: Dementia is increasingly prevalent in people with severe/profound intellectual disabilities. However, early detection and diagnosis of dementia is complex in this population. This study aimed to identify observable dementia symptoms in adults with severe/profound intellectual disabilities in available literature.

METHOD: A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO and Web of Science with an exhaustive search string using a combination of search terms for severe/profound intellectual disabilities and dementia/ageing.

RESULTS: Eleven studies met inclusion criteria. Cognitive decline, behavioural and psychological alterations, decline in activities of daily living as well as neurological and physical changes were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Only a very limited number of studies reported symptoms ascribed to dementia in adults with severe/profound intellectual disabilities. Given the complexity of signalling and diagnosing dementia, dedicated studies are required to unravel the natural history of dementia in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-45
Number of pages22
JournalMental Handicap Research
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • dementia
  • down syndrome
  • ageing


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