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If people do not understand the importance of brushing teeth to avoid unnecessary dental treatment, or of proper washing to avoid possible skin infection or food poisoning, they may neglect their personal care. Poor personal hygiene may have serious consequences, not only for general health, but also for the individual’s acceptance in local community activities and possibly for access to employment.
It should never be assumed that neglect of personal care, wearing dirty or inappropriate clothes or poor diet are automatically informed ‘choices’. We all have a responsibility to encourage healthy lifestyles and greater awareness about the importance of personal care.
Eating is important for all of us. Different kinds of food give our bodies energy. How much energy our bodies need depends on:
- How old we are (older people need less energy than younger people).
- Whether we are men or women (women need less energy than men).
- How heavy we are. Heavier people need more energy to do the same amount of work as people who are not heavy.
- The kinds of lives we have and how much exercise we do.
- Whether we are sick or not well, e.g. while a raised temperature may increase our energy needs, mostly people who are sick need less energy.
- People who need a lot of help to move and walk may be using less energy.
It is important that we:
- Drink plenty of water every day.
- Move and keep fit by walking (or dancing, jogging, cycling, swimming, or going to the gym) because exercise keeps our bones and muscles strong.
- Get the balance right between what we eat and what our bodies need.
- Drink sensibly, if we drink alcohol.
‘Five-a-day’ and more
Most of us aren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables. We should encourage each other to eat healthily and take exercise. Our bodies are designed to be active. The more active we are, the more energy we have. Yet many of us spend too much time indoors watching TV and snacking, even though we may not be hungry. Eating healthily means eating a wide range of foods. Eating different kinds of foods may seem more expensive, but it is really worth doing for the sake of our health.
Friendships and relationships are important elements in everyone’s life. Without them we can become lonely, and our mental health can suffer.
Making friends can be particularly hard for many people with learning disabilities, who may have fewer social opportunities than other people. They may not have as much choice about their friends, and stick to family and to the people they live with.
Sometimes people who have paid staff think of their staff as friends, but these friendships are often one-sided and can vanish when the workforce changes. People with learning disabilities who do not get any support, on the other hand, may be especially at risk of isolation and depression.
Learning the rules
Some people with a learning disability, or another condition such as autism, can find social interaction difficult to understand. They may crave some friendliness or intimacy, but have not yet begun to understand the basics of how to approach people successfully. Some people might have got to adulthood without understanding the rules of consenting touch for a number of reasons. They might have been brought up in an institutional setting, perhaps in a hospital or residential home, and not experienced normal loving touch. They might have been abused as a child, and learned the wrong set of rules.
Perhaps they also missed out on educational opportunities. Many older adults with learning disabilities have missed out on sex and relationships education at school. In the UK all schools now have a responsibility to include pupils with additional needs in an appropriate and accessible way in the PSHE (Personal Social Health and Economic education) curriculum, including sex and relationships education.
Just because home is so important to us, moving home can be exciting but it can also be difficult. Moving home means moving out and moving in. Some people move in to share a home with some other people. There are lots of good things in this. You can feel more grown up. You get the first place of your own, sharing with other people. You are more ‘in charge’ of your life. You can gain some new friends and start doing new things with them.
But big changes are never easy. You can miss people in your past life, although you might still be able to visit them from time to time. You might get some new friends but you have to learn how to get on with them around the house and do your share of the housework. When people live together, there is always the chance of getting into an argument. Just like on TV programmes (like Hollyoaks or Eastenders in the UK)!
But this is life for all of us. We all have to learn how to cope with these new experiences.
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