Living with an intellectual disability (ID) can be challenging in many ways. One hurdle is the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions for a person who may not be able to speak and voice what they feel. Medical assessment relies heavily on patient history, which means doctors feel ill-equipped to assess a person who has difficulties communicating. Furthermore, we know that medical conditions are common amongst people living with an ID, who will have roughly 4-5 health conditions.
Research shows that a few interventions can help in this regard. Firstly, people with an ID are encouraged to have an annual medical review. This is a top-to-toe health check that is designed to identify health problems early. Early intervention is the key to minimising discomfort, and maximising longevity.
Secondly, approximately 30- 40% of people with an ID will have no known cause for their disability. Genetic screening has come a long way in the last 10 years, and can often be the piece of the puzzle in diagnosing syndromes that lead to particular medical conditions. Knowledge about syndromes can help us plan future health needs.
Lastly, it is important to have continuity. This goes for doctors and support staff/carers. Often complex issues require time and a dedicated team of people collating information to help medical professionals arrive at the correct diagnosis. Finding a good GP and sticking with them, is often the key. Seeing a variety of people often results in a ‘band-aid’ approach, misdiagnosis and inappropriate prescribing of sedating medication.
You don’t need a GP who is an expert. You need a GP who is willing to take the time, listen and think about approaching a problem creatively.