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Aging with A Developmental Disability – Lifestyle & Health Considerations

Normal Aging Process

Tip sheets and workshop describing the likely changes to their body systems and functioning abilities as someone ages and strategies to help support a person with an intellectual disability exhibiting these changes.


Related articles

Original material compiled by Jane Powell of L’Arche Ontario. Adapted with permission from

Normal Aging – What we Know and How it Impacts Individuals with a Developmental Disability

Presenter: Brenda Elias, Faculty, Non Profit and Voluntary Sector Management, Ryerson University and Social Foundations of Gerontology, Family & Community Social Services, University of Guelph-Humber

    • What is Ontario’s Aging in Place Policy?
    • Psychosocial aspects of aging

Critical importance of social networks for maintaining health and wellbeing as we age

  • Leisure, meaningful activities
  • Creating an Age-Friendly Community


Nursing Presentation: Sensory

Centennial College Nursing Students Presentation Series 2012: Sensory changes that occur with the elderly and strategies to overcome the impacts


Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Nutrition and Related Concerns

Presenter: Susan Hui

Some of the common concerns around nutrition and eating as they relate to aging and some strategies that can be used to help maintain the nutritional level of those we support.


Exercise Tips

Fall Prevention

Nursing Presentation: Fall Prevention

Centennial College Nursing Students Presentation Series 2012: Fall prevention risk assessments and strategies to prevent falls and fall injuries.


The Role of the Care Provider in the Prevention of Foot Complications

The focus of this article is about maintaining foot health and the caregiver’s role in preventing foot complications. Read more

Palliative Care

Palliative care can be separated into three stages. These stages enable the caregiver to plan and work with expected outcomes. In each of these stages symptom management is required, the following pages cover the most common symptoms. Material written by Aakilah Ade, Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Consultant.

Palliative Care and Symptom Management

Everyone’s health matters

Good health is important to all of us. When you are healthy, you can go out with friends and family, do sports, go to school, or work better. People with developmental disabilities are more likely to have illnesses like diabetes, asthma or heart disease than people without a disability.

This video explains how healthy people with developmental disabilities in Ontario are, and what kind of healthcare they get. Not everyone is as healthy as they could be, and not everyone is getting the healthcare that they need.

Caption: A Talk About Health, by Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD), CAMH, 2015 [20 minutes]

Going to the Doctor

The more the doctor knows about you, the more they can help make the visit better for you. Use the “About My Health” form to write down information about you, your medication, and your health before you go see the doctor. You can fill it out yourself or ask someone to help you. Give this form to your doctor or nurse at the start of any healthcare visit. Get the “About My Health” form at the Surrey Place website.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember everything that the doctor said. Ask your doctor or someone who comes with you to the doctor’s office to fill out the “About My Healthcare Visit” form. Write what you need to do after the healthcare visit. Get the “About My Healthcare Visit” form at the Surrey Place website.

Even if you don’t feel sick, it is still important to see your doctor once every year for a check-up. In this video Andrew explains what happens at a healthcare visit and how you can prepare.

Caption: Going to the Doctor, by Health Care Assess Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD), CAMH, 2016 [5:30 minutes]

Getting a blood test

Sometimes the doctor needs to know more about your health and will ask you to get a blood test at a health lab. This video shows you what exactly happens when going for a blood test.

What happens when you go to get bloodwork done, by Surrey Place, 2019, [3:00 minutes

Getting a Blood Test, by Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD), CAMH, 2016 [4:30 minutes]

Going to the hospital

When you go to the hospital or emergency room, people will ask you many questions. Bring the “About My Health” form to have all your information ready for the doctors and nurses.

This video explains what happens when you go to the emergency department.

Caption: What to expert wen you go to the ER, by CAMH, 2014 [3:10 minutes]

Find more tips on how to prepare for a visit to the emergency department in this checklist.

Prepare a crisis plan with your family or staff for future emergencies.

Health problems you should check for regularly

Sometimes you don’t notice when you are sick. At a check-up you can ask for tests to see if you are healthy. Some important health problems to check for are: cancer, diabetes, pap test.   Here are some other things to know about health.

When you are just not feeling happy

Mental health is about how you feel and what you think. Sometimes you do not feel sick in your body, but you just don’t feel happy or enjoy doing activities anymore, or you worry a lot. Listen to a conversation with Special Olympics athletes about what you can do when you don’t feel happy and how you can help others who feel that way. There are 4 videos in this series.

A Conversation About Mental Health with Special Olympics Athletes, by H-CARDD and Special Olympics, 2016

How direct support professionals can help

We all like to have someone in our corner in difficult situations. Staff can make a big difference in supporting people with developmental disabilities in their health. Learn how to prepare together for a visit to the doctor.

Caption: Everybody Wins: Preparing for a Healthcare Visit. By, Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities and Vita Community Living, 2019 [7:06 minutes]

During the healthcare visit support workers can help with communication. In this video you see how to use the About My Health and My Healthcare Visit forms to share important information with the doctor. Julie also shares how a few accommodations can really be a game changer for her healthcare visit.

Caption: The Game Changer: The Doctor Visit, by Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities and Vita Community Living, 2019 [7:55 minutes]

Support staff can also help track common health issues like bowel movements, sleep and weight using monitoring charts. Download health monitoring charts.

For a complete healthcare toolkit for direct support professionals, visit the website Nuts and Bolts of Health Care. The toolkit includes, videos, tools and newsletters with practical tips on primary and emergency care.

More information

Community Networks of Specialized Care (CNSC): this network links specialized services across Ontario, improves services delivery and builds capacity in the community. The team includes Health Care Facilitators across Ontario. This website has information for service providers and direct support professionals Read more.

Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program (DDPCP): this program develops guidelines, resources and tools for health care providers and caregivers to improve the health of people with developmental disabilities. Read more.

Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD): this is a research program investigating the health status and health service use of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ontario. On this website you will find research information and many clinical tools and health care resources for patients, caregivers, and health care providers. Read more.

Palliative Pain and Symptom Management

Presenter: Tracey Human, RN, Palliative Pain Symptom Management Consultation Service for Toronto

Considerations for intellectual and physical disability communities of practice – palliative care, hospice, collaborative care planning.


Health and Wellness for Staff and Family caregivers

Developmental Sector Professionals’ Stress-related Health

Professional Fatigue: Surviving the Front Lines (Shared Learning Forum November 2013)

Presented by: Angie Gonzales, RN MN Health Care Facilitator, Toronto Network of Specialized Care, Surrey Place Centre


Mindfulness Tools for Social Workers

Professional Fatigue: Surviving the Front Lines (Shared Learning Forum November 2013)

Presented by: Sue Hutton, Community Living Toronto


Comfort Care


Comfort Care Basket

Comfort Care is an essential part of medical care at the end of life. It is care that helps or soothes a person who is dying. The goal is to prevent or relieve suffering as much as possible while respecting the dying person’s wishes. Seven Oaks Long Term Care Home has developed a Comfort Care Basket program. The Comfort Care Basket is for the resident who is currently receiving comfort care support, their family and friends in hope that it will make their time together as comfortable as possible. This guide details how to create a Comfort Care Basket, ideas about what you can do to provide comfort care and specific protocols for various cultural and religious beliefs. Read more »

As Death Approaches: A Guide to Symptoms and Comfort

Death comes differently for every person, and your loved ones death will be unique. However, there are changes that are commonly part of this final phase of life. You may see these in your loved one. This handout explains some of these changes and gives ideas about what you can do to provide care and comfort. This information may help you anticipate the changes you may see in your loved one and to go forward with more peace and confidence. Read more »

Palliative and End of Life Care Glossary

A glossary of palliative and end of life terms and definitions Read more »

Different cultural beliefs at time of death

Living in a society represented by many cultures and religious beliefs means that memorable events can be celebrated differently. In this section we look at the different religious beliefs surrounding death & dying and what funeral or burial rituals may be undertaken. Read more »

Health Booklets

The My Health Booklets are a series of health education booklets produced by Surrey Place Centre and funded by the Ontario Government, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. The purpose for the series is to offer guidance to people with developmental disabilities in a clear and simple manner. The series consists of eight booklets now available online, with subjects ranging from general health issues to more specific health topics.

Using emergency services: What clients with developmental disabilities should expect

Jillian Carlyle of the CAMH Dual Diagnosis Service talks about what clients and families should expect and prepare for when going the emergency department. Play video

In Case of Emergency, Please Read: Ideas and Strategies for Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities Receiving Emergency Care

This article offers some practical tips about how to make emergency visits as good as they can be, and also outlines some steps we can all take to reduce the likelihood of having to go to the hospital in the first place.  read more

Strategies for caring for people with developmental disabilities in medical settings

Useful strategies to improve communications and gather more comprehensive information on people with developmental disabilities who come to medical settings requiring medical support.

Play presentation

Toronto Central Health Integration Network (LHIN) Overview: Who We Are

After the presentation Kim gives a description about her role as a care coordinator for client’s that receive services/supports through TC LHIN and how this intersects with the developmental sector services/supports. Play video

Hurry Up and Wait Your Turn: How to win at the waiting game

The waiting room can be a very difficult and often chaotic environment for anyone. Below are some helpful tips and tricks to help win the waiting game. It is important to remember that the way one can support a person during a doctor’s visit will depend on their individual needs and preferences. Read more

Scoop on Poop

Being regular, particularly in adulthood, is an “irregular” conversation starter. It is one of those topics that seem too “private” or perhaps too “stinky” to discuss in public. But the reality is that how we feel each day is closely tied to our bowels. Read more

Not Skirting the Issue: Discovering Ways to End Poor Health Care for Women with Developmental Disabilities

Women with developmental disabilities are less likely than other women in Ontario to have a pap smear which is how doctors screen for cervical cancer. They are also less likely to get a mammogram to detect breast cancer. Why does this matter? If we have health problems and they aren’t detected early, small problems can become big ones, and can even lead to death. Every woman has a right to get health care early before problems become too serious. Read more

Movember and Men’s Health: What You Should Know!

While men in general can have health problems that they often ignore because they don’t like to talk about their health and how they are feeling, having a disability makes it even harder. Read more

Medication, Education and Advocacy: Improving How People With Developmental Disabilities Use Medication

Medication use is very common for individuals with developmental disabilities. But medications can also lead to problems when you struggle with how to report whether a medication helps or not, or when others aren’t alert to the impact of the side effects. Read more 

Building Sensory Gardens, Rooms & Kits: Enhance well-being, develop coping skills and reduce challenging behaviour, through Sensory Engagement

When considering the issue of quality of life for people with developmental disabilities, and particularly with those who have challenging behaviour, it is important to consider the role of sensory engagement in a holistic biopsychosocial approach. Read more

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Let’s Talk: An Open Dialogue on Vulnerability in Toronto Series:

Through collaboration and coordination, the Community Network of Specialized Care works to build efficient and effective cross-sectorial specialized service systems that support people with a developmental disability and mental health challenges (dual diagnosis) and/or challenging behaviour. Read more

Autism & 90-90-90: Reaching for the Goal

Presenting preliminary findings on ACT’s “ASD & HIV Prevention Needs Assessment” survey and explaining the impact the autism spectrum has on negotiating safer sex, accessing services, and community connection. Play video

Community Networks of Specialized Care

The purpose of the Community Networks of Specialized Care is to enhance service to adults with a developmental disability who need specialized care for co-existing mental health and or/ behavioural issues in Ontario. There are 4 networks: Northern Region, Southern Region, Eastern Region and Central Region. 

Collaborative Planning for Complex Individuals

Cognitive Impairment related to Narcotic Use

Excerpt from “Neurodevelopmental Disabilities” (Let’s Talk: An Open Dialogue on Vulnerability in Toronto Series)

Presenter: Lisa Orsi, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Progress in Disparities of People with Developmental Disabilities In Health Care

Excerpt from “Neurodevelopmental Disabilities” (Let’s Talk: An Open Dialogue on Vulnerability in Toronto Series)

Presenters: Angie Gonzales and Aamir Khan, Community Network of Specialized Care.


Primary Health Care of Adults with Developmental Disabilities Guidelines

The Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Initiative has brought together clinicians with expertise in the care of adults with developmental disabilities (DD) to improve primary care and quality of life for adults with developmental disabilities (DD). Primary Health Care of Adults with Developmental Disabilities Guidelines 

With leadership and coordination from Surrey Place Centre, and funding from the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and Surrey Place Centre Foundation, Guidelines and Tools have been developed to help primary care providers to follow best practices in the care of these patients. These guidelines and tools  are utilized in the Training Course for primary care providers that are offered on a yearly basis.