On 5 October, the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices (NTG) met and released advice regarding long-COVID related symptoms in people with intellectual disabilities. The NTG defines a post-COVID condition, as appearing 4 to 12 weeks after infection, and characterised by a combination of fatigue and cognitive symptoms such as slow thinking, difficulty in focusing, forgetfulness, and haziness in thought processes. Long-COVID can be an independent source of impairment in cognition and an additional burden for people that already have Mild Cognitive Impairment, dementia or another form of cognitive impairment such as intellectual disability. Currently, evidence lacks regarding the implications of the emergence of such long-COVID-related cognitive symptoms in people with intellectual disabilities (ID). In this advisory, the NTG provides information about long-COVID related cognitive problems and puts forward information and recommendations on how to correctly recognise such symptoms in the intellectual disability population.
The NTG advisory advises that sufficient attention is paid to the issue of long-COVID and related cognitive symptoms in people with intellectual disabilities. In particular, individuals who have COVID-19 must be checked for significant alterations in their performance on daily-life activities or cognition compared to before their contraction of the virus. Regarding people with long-COVID, the NTG advises against the use of off-label medication for people with ID while recommending periodic physical and cognitive health checks, providing support and post-COVID care advice, and putting in place a dementia care plan. New brain fog symptoms in adults with ID can be indicative of a form of dementia, irrespective of history of COVID-19 contraction and the assessment process must be used carefully to differentiate between these two pathologies. A final point emphasised by the Task Group is that adults with ID who have contracted long COVID should be entitled to claim disability protection and benefits, in addition to the ones guaranteed by their ID. Primary author of the paper, Matthew Janicki, from the NTG, held a roundtable session on intellectual disability and dementia during the 32nd Alzheimer Europe Conference in Bucharest, together with Karen Watchman from the University of Stirling, Scotland.