Supporting people with an intellectual disability through the “Normal” Aging Process
Aging Persons with an intellectual disability will:
- Likely affect the daily rhythms of our homes and the community as a whole.
- Push us to focus even more on building upon, reinforcing and developing their strengths so that their quality of life is enhanced.
- Have frequent changes in support and residential location and their health records are often inadequate. Consequently, it may take some time to piece together an accurate picture of the individual’s health status.
- Challenge us to find creative ways for people to continue to do the things they like to do and to continue to have a role in the home.
- Aging takes place earlier with individuals who are intellectually disabled than the general population.
- In the 21st century, the life expectancy has increased to 66.1 years of age.
- Individuals who are intellectually disabled account for 3% of older adults.
- Health needs change as they individual gets older.
Ideas for accommodating balance:
- Use a rocking chair can help compensate.
- Use walkers and canes properly.
- Do some exercise to maintain leg muscles.
- Encourage the person to avoid lifting, stretching and reaching when it can not be done safely.
- Have the person get up gradually so that they don’t get dizzy.
Increased Physical Stress:
- Handling physical stress becomes more difficult as you get older.
- People are less able to adjust to such stresses as heat, cold, physical exertion, and illness.
- Have the person do things they enjoy but help them to pace themselves. Provide a rest day after an extra busy day, if possible, or at least a quieter day.
Ideas re Exercise:
- Important to exercise to prevent muscle tissue from turning to fat.
- Exercise helps maintain bone density.
- Exercise helps prevent depression.
- Encourage walking and other exercise as suggested by medical doctor or physiotherapist.
Ideas re Meals and Nutrition:
- In general, older people need fewer calories so provide foods rich in nutrition but lower in calories.
- Sense of thirst decreases so encourage people to drink more frequently. Kidneys may also be filtering more medication.
- Weight loss or gain of 10 pounds in six months needs to be looked into medically.
Ideas re Speech and Communication:
- May be slightly harder and take a bit longer to say what they want to say. Not usually apparent but more likely to happen in stressful situations.
- For example, when the doctor is in a hurry and wants to speak with the person accompanying the individual, they may need support to speak for themselves.
- Not every person will experience all of these changes.
- Organizations concerned with a particular syndrome or condition may be helpful in providing information helpful for certain individuals.
- Aging is a spiritual and psychological journey as well as a physical one.
- If we believe that people can continue to grow and to share their gifts as they age we will support them to do so.
Information is compiled from the following:
- McCracken Intervention Matrix –McCracken -College of Nursing and Health, University of Cincinnati and Lotteman Children, Inc. Covington, KY
- A Focus on Geriatrics Sharing the Learning St Vincent Hospitals part of Providence Health Care
- Age Changes and what to do about it Phyllis Kultgen and Peggy Hotz
- Management Guidelines Development Disability Version 2, 2005.
Original material compiled by Jane Powell of L’Arche Ontario
Adapted with permission from http://www.aging-and-disability.org