Guidelines for Dementia-Related Health Advocacy for Adults With Intellectual Disability and Dementia: National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Kathleen M. Bishop, Mary Hogan, Matthew P. Janicki, Seth M. Keller, Ronald Lucchino, Dawna T. Mughal, Elizabeth A. Perkins, Baldev K. Singh, Kathy Service, Sarah Wolfson, and the Health Planning Work Group of the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices (2015)

Guidelines for Dementia-Related Health Advocacy for Adults With Intellectual Disability and Dementia: National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, February 2015, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 2-29. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1352/1934-9556-53.1.2

Increasing numbers of adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) are living into old age. Though this indicates the positive effects of improved health care and quality of life, the end result is that more adults with ID are and will be experiencing age-related health problems and also exhibiting symptoms of cognitive impairment and decline, some attributable to dementia. Early symptoms of dementia can be subtle and in adults with ID are often masked by their lifelong cognitive impairment, combined with the benign effects of aging. A challenge for caregivers is to recognize and communicate symptoms, as well as find appropriate practitioners familiar with the medical issues presented by aging adults with lifelong disabilities. Noting changes in behavior and function and raising suspicions with a healthcare practitioner, during routine or ad hoc visits, can help focus the examination and potentially validate that the decline is the result of the onset or progression of dementia. It can also help in ruling out reversible conditions that may have similar presentation of symptoms typical for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. To enable caregivers, whether family members or staff, to prepare for and advocate during health visits, the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices has developed guidelines and recommendations for dementia-related health advocacy preparation and assistance that can be undertaken by provider and advocacy organizations.