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Encouraging and Supporting a Healthy Lifestyle for People with Disabilities

We find it important to take a holistic view to working with our client population. Our residential settings, day programs, employment assistance programs, managed care, and home and community-based services focus on fulfilling mental, physical, emotional, self-worth, independence, and other needs to create opportunities for and with people.

One component that is crucial to enabling people with disabilities to live their best life is promoting a healthy lifestyle. Those living with developmental disabilities, and their support teams, often find that it can be difficult to get effective medical care. Part of this issue is addressed by caregivers RISE assigns in our residential services offerings, but there is so much more that can be done in the community. This article focuses on what can be achieved through improved medical care, and also provides tips for setting up successful medical appointments.

Why Creating Better Systems of Care for Adults with Disabilities Is Crucial

According to The Commonwealth Fund, “Proactive, comprehensive care for adults with disabilities can help them avoid medical complications and improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, this population often has difficulty finding physically accessible practices or providers with expertise in their conditions. Compared with other adults, they receive less preventive care and have a high incidence of potentially preventable medical conditions stemming from their disabilities.” Their observations reveal that:

  • 22.6 million working-age adults have a disability, most often related to mobility or cognition.
  • Having a disability is also associated with more difficulty accessing medical care, a higher frequency of emergency room visits, and increased hospitalization rates.
  • This population also exhibits higher rates of chronic and acute conditions, obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking.

These factors result in a much higher level of health care spending than that of adults in the general population. Paying for increased out-of-pocket costs for medical care is more complicated because this population is also twice as likely to live below the federal poverty level. This cycle of low income leading to poor healthcare, and poor healthcare leading to more acute care needs must be interrupted. A chronic need for healthcare also contributes to reduced employment levels, and a decreased quality of life.

Creating Better Medical Appointments for People With Disabilities

Even though healthcare has become extremely advanced in our country, too many health care providers receive surprisingly little training on treating people living with disabilities. Although their life expectancy is now approaching that of the general population, many medical professionals still tend to focus more on the disability itself and fail to diagnose and treat other aggravating medical conditions. Steps that can be taken to improve the quality of care, and help create healthier lifestyles include:

  • Ensure more accessible treatment and care facilities.
  • Proactively identify and treat secondary conditions.
  • Engage and build trust with patients.
  • Integrate long-term services and supports to promote independence and social inclusion.
  • Schedule yearly check-ups with a general physician, as well as necessary appointments with specialists.
  • Speak directly to the patient, or ask for permission to obtain clarification from the supporter.
  • Provide communication aids, such as picture supports, demonstrations, electronic readers, large print, and Braille.

The goal of health care for patients with developmental disabilities is to improve well-being, function, and participation in daily activities. Engaging patients in managing their own conditions, and offering a variety of support services leads to fewer medical complications and improved quality of life. RISE Services Inc. provides services in Utah, Arizona, Oregon and Idaho for adults and children who are living with disabilities. Contact RISE to learn about the wide variety of developmental services we offer to encourage healthy lifestyles for all.