Patients with Intellectual Development Disabilities at High Risk

Intellectual Development Disabilities

Risks of COVID-19 for vulnerable groups require particular attention, particularly those with Intellectual Development Disabilities

The rampant spread of COVID-19 shows that calculating risk factors for vulnerable populations, such as those with intellectual development disabilities, is a matter of life and death. That’s proven in a study showing people with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) are twice as likely to die from a preventable death. High-risk groups, like those with IDD, lack the ability for caregivers to perform simple risk assessments that could save lives. 

Though that is changing, as the Health Risk Screening, Inc.’s Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) for identifying risk in people with IDD has been endorsed by the Journal of Nursing Measurement.

According to Dr. Craig Escudé, the president of Health Risk Screening, Inc., it’s never been more critical in understanding the risks of COVID-19 for this more vulnerable group of individuals, and even more important is being able to take steps to mitigate such risks. “Healthcare professionals and caregivers are at a huge disadvantage in providing care for those with IDD during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Escudé says. “This leaves them helpless in assessing mortality risk and providing care for their patients and loved ones.”

According to Dr. Escudé, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter five common challenges that put them at a higher risk for illnesses like COVID-19:

  1. A higher percentage of people with disabilities have comorbidities, such as diabetes and other conditions
  2. Some may have restrictions in their ability to take deep breaths or even cough effectively due to musculoskeletal issues
  3. Those with higher rates of aspiration may have scarring of their lungs
  4. Some habitually place items in their mouth, which can increase the risk of contact with infectious materials
  5. Those who require frequent emergency department or medical visits may have increased exposure to people with illnesses

Other leading experts on the topics of aging and intellectual disabilities agree that people with IDD are particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes associated with COVID-19 due to having:

  • Several health conditions
  • Low levels of health literacy
  • Reliance on others for their care
  • Smaller networks and less social support than the general population
  • Reduced comprehension regarding the need for visiting restrictions

SOURCE: Health Risk Screening, Inc.

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