People with intellectual or cognitive disability have limitation in mental functioning and skills such as communication, self care, and social interaction. Among Australians with disability (all forms), 6.5% have intellectual and developmental forms, and 2.6% have dementia. People with disability are present within all sections of the community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, LGBTI communities, and homeless people. Each person with intellectual disability will have their own individual experience of living with disability. Poor access to care including palliative care is often part of this experience.
People with intellectual disability often experience significantly poorer health than those without. In general people with a disability are more likely to develop a health condition, and those with a health condition are more likely to develop a disability. The life expectancy of people with intellectual disability is 25 years less than the general population.
Some of the barriers to accessing palliative care services may include delays in seeing the GP due to cost, waiting longer to see a medical specialist, and poor access to assisted transport services for appointments to specialist services. Lack or limited understanding of death, dying and palliative care is also a barrier to accessing care.
Communicating effectively with people with intellectual disability is important to understand their needs and put them at the centre of their care. Here are some examples of what may help:
To learn more about people living with disability, visit the Australian Government Department of Health Exploratory Analysis of Barriers to Palliative Care - Issues Report on People with Disabilities and the Aged Care Diversity Framework (3.25MB pdf)
This information was drawn from the following resources:
Last updated 02 August 2021