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Support workers' knowledge about dementia: a vignette study

Daniel L. Herron (School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, UK)
Helena M. Priest (Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent, UK and at Keele University, Keele, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 11 January 2013




It is widely acknowledged that people with intellectual disabilities are highly likely to experience mental health problems, but that support workers' knowledge and skill in this area is sometimes lacking. There is little research explicitly exploring knowledge about the mental health of older people with intellectual disabilities and the purpose of this paper is to attempt to fill this gap.


In total, 14 support workers completed a questionnaire in which three vignettes presented progressively worsening indicators of dementia in an older person with intellectual disabilities. Participants explained what they thought was happening and what action they would take. Data were analysed using Braun and Clarke's framework.


Few participants had undertaken any mental health training, and only one in relation to older people. They were generally poor at judging early and intermediate indicators of dementia, but were able to identify more overt later signs. However, they believed these advanced indicators to be the onset of dementia. Nonetheless, they would generally take appropriate action, such as observation and referral. Abuse was often considered as a causal factor.

Practical implications

The most significant implication is the need for training in the mental health needs of older people and in particular, the general and specific indicators and expected trajectory of dementia in this population.


The study adds to the limited research on staff knowledge about older people with intellectual disabilities and dementia, using a novel methodology.



Herron, D.L. and Priest, H.M. (2013), "Support workers' knowledge about dementia: a vignette study", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 27-39.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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