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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

A look at developmental disabilities and aging

Q: What are some challenges individuals with developmental disabilities face as they grow older?

A: March is National Developmental Disabilities month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language or behaviors.” Generally, developmental disabilities begin before a person is born but some can happen after birth due to injury, infection or other factors. A result, an individual’s day-to-day functioning may be affected, usually throughout the individual’s lifetime.

Adult Family Care at LifePath is one program that serves people with developmental disabilties from age 16 into their elder years, helping to match them with foster homes and supporting new and already existing caregiver relationships.Today, people with developmental disabilities are living longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives than ever, which means they are also facing new challenges related to aging. Challenges include improving the health and function of these adults and their families, enhancing consumer-directed and family-based care, and reducing barriers to health and community involvement.

According to Today’s Geriatric Medicine, “Advancements in medicine and public policy changes, along with a societal push for inclusion, have provided physicians with an opportunity to play a pivotal role in promoting, managing, and delivering care that supports a high quality of life for older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

It is important that individuals with developmental disabilities have regularly scheduled screening and assessment (yearly or every six months, if required) with a multidisciplinary approach to health maintenance. Most individuals are accompanied to medical appointments either by a professional caregiver or a family member. Although a caregiver’s input can be helpful, clinicians are encouraged to not only include a patient in all interactions but also to speak directly to the patient unless communication becomes a barrier.

Health goals for adults with developmental disabilities are similar to those that apply to the general population:

  • maintain or improve community participation
  • support a good quality of life (as defined by the individual and/or caregiver)
  • promote wellness
  • minimize acute care visits

“LifePath serves Department of Developmental Services (DDS)-affiliated individuals through our wide array of service delivery models, including: Shared Living, Adult Family Care, Personal Care Assistance, and Home Care. Individuals are able to maintain their independence in the community with the support of these services. LifePath’s staff collaborates with the DDS service coordinators to ensure individuals receive optimal care which fosters community integration and person centered interventions,” says Barbara Bodzin, director of client services at LifePath. Other agencies that address specific needs of individuals with developmental disabilities included but are not limited to: The Arc, Stavros, and MassMATCH – Assistive Technology.

LifePath has many services and programs that can offer support to individuals with disabilities and their families. For more information, contact us.