Patterns of aging in adults with intellectual disabilities
Thorpe, Lilian Ulrica
Changes in health care and increasing provision of community services have resulted in an increased number of community dwelling older adults with intellectual disabilities (ID), leading to questions about future planning for service delivery. Although selected aspects of functioning have been explored in various research studies, less longitudinal information pertaining to broad aspects of health is available to planners. This longitudinal project was designed over 10 years ago with the primary purpose of exploring individual and systemic issues in the health needs of this challenging population, leading to improved service planning.Cross-sectional and longitudinal health data were collected from 360 adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) recruited from social services agencies from across the province of Saskatchewan. Data collection included caregiver information, chart information and directly administered tests of selected aspects of cognitive functioning. Formal data-collection occurred every second year for a maximum of four test times, and was supplemented by follow-up phone calls.Analysis of study results showed that young, rather than older people without DS had a greater severity of health needs related to their underlying conditions, and more problematic behavioral and mental health issues. The reason for this was likely the increased survival of multiply handicapped young people, and the increasing trend for these people to be maintained in the community rather than in large institutions. This population was more likely to receive psychotropic medications, both for underlying problems such as seizure disorders, but also for difficult behaviors such as aggression.On the other hand, adults with DS had relatively fewer problems in their younger adult years, but had increasing problems as they aged. Most aspects of functioning were decreased in the older compared to the younger cohorts, which was consistent with the longitudinal, individual level data showing yearly declines in most measured skills. These declines were greater than those found in adults without DS. Although yearly declines were noted in most age cohorts, the largest declines were noted in the oldest age groups, 50 years and over, suggesting that, while aging related decline was present from an early age, declines severe enough to suggest a dementing process probably do not start until after middle age. Declines in visual memory appear to precede those in praxis.Mortality was increased with age, lower baseline functioning, DS, male gender, and baseline depressive symptoms.The use of aging programs did not change much during the course of the study, but interesting differences in service use between people with and without DS were noted. Adults with DS were more likely than those without DS to participate in generic aging services, which was thought to be due to people with DS presenting with more typical, Alzheimer type behaviors, rather than severe behaviors such as aggression.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentCommunity Health and Epidemiology
ProgramCommunity Health and Epidemiology
CommitteeReeder, Bruce; Nanson, Josephine; Muhajarine, Nazeem; Crossley, Margaret
Copyright DateSeptember 2006