How Doctor’s Offices Need to Prepare for Patients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs)

patient in docotrs office gettting blood pressure checked

Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have experienced difficulty obtaining access to proper and well-coordinated medical care.  Therefore, when scheduling doctors’ appointments, it’s a perfect opportunity for caregivers to mention any special needs or requirements the patient may have. This will allow the doctor’s office to ask questions and help prepare for the visit.

How Caregivers and Doctor’s Offices Can Prepare for Patients with Intellectual/Developmentally Disabilities

There are ways that the caregiver and doctor’s office can prepare for a visit for someone that is IDD. Failure to prepare for or overlook any of these particulars can affect the examination or the ability to have one performed.

Caregiver Preparation Tips

  • Ensure that doctor participates with your insurance.
  • Be sure the person you care for knows why they are going to the doctor and what to expect. Then, show them an appropriate video that best represents the visit.
  • Remind the doctors and nurses to address the patient directly and that you are there as support when needed.
  • Make the office aware of any particular triggers that may cause the patient to become upset or uncomfortable.
  • Have a list of all medications the person is taking and the reasons why.
  • Explain any noticeable changes that you have seen in them to the doctor. Either from the medications or otherwise.
  • Obtain information from other caregivers who may see the individual in different settings (such as school or day program).
  • Bring any items they may need to make the visit more comfortable, such as a pillow or music and ear-buds.

Doctor’s Office Preparation Tips

  • Explain any requirements that you have for the caregiver before the visit.
  • Share any helpful information about the layout of the office and the type of environment they can expect (ex., noisy, busy, cramped, etc.)
  • Try to schedule the visit for a quieter time of day.
  • Doctors, nurses, and staff should familiarize themselves with the different types of disabilities and what they can do to prepare for patients.
  • Address the patient directly, but also give the caregiver ample opportunity to provide information. 
  • Be prepared for the specific needs of their visit as you can.

The Medical Community Needs to Make Changes

People with all types of disabilities face obstacles when gaining access to healthcare. They can feel defeated when you add limitations due to the physical layout, capabilities of the office, or the lack of knowledge of their conditions by doctors and staff. Along with that negative feeling, their overall health suffers as well. Even with things in place like the Americans with Disabilities Act, inconsistencies with adherence to these considerations still exist. 

Individuals with disabilities frequently experience co-existing conditions and medical professionals need to work as a multi-disciplinary team to get to the root of the problem and develop solutions.  These teams could consist of Primary doctors with Specialists (e.g., Neurologist, Gastroenterologist, Endocrinologist, Cardiologist, Psychiatrist) and ancillary providers such as Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy.  And don’t forget the Caregivers!  They know the person best and will have the best knowledge regarding how a person reacts to different environmental stimuli.  They also know the best ways to motivate and reward healthy patient practices. 

Course Corrections at Medical Schools

There is no better way to educate general clinicians about the needs of people with IDDs than during their schooling. Thankfully this is becoming more of a focus across the country as the need for awareness and change has finally gained enough attention. More than two dozen U.S. Medical Schools are working on curriculum initiatives to correct this problem.

There is also the Action to Build Clinical Confidence and Culture program that was created in 2020. Its purpose is to develop strategies to prepare primary care physicians through a nationwide collaborative effort.

Reach out to Community Mainstreaming Associates today! We are here to provide professional assistance, guidance, and solutions to those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their loved ones.