The palliative care needs of people with intellectual disabilities: a literature review

Irene Tuffrey-Wijne
Palliative Medicine 2003, 17 (1): 55-62
People with intellectual disabilities are among the most disadvantaged groups in society. A literature review was conducted aiming to answer the following question: What are the palliative care needs of people with intellectual disabilities? The literature review covers case histories, morbidity and mortality patterns for people with intellectual disabilities, their healthcare needs and primary care provision, the way they may present symptoms, their conceptualization of illness and death and issues around education and training. While the literature review reveals a lack of empirical data around the palliative care needs of people with intellectual disabilities, a number of potential problem areas are highlighted. These include late presentation of illness, difficulties in assessing symptoms, difficulties in understanding the illness and its implications and ethical issues around decision making and consent to treatment. It is suggested that future studies will need to include the views and experiences of people with intellectual disabilities themselves. Areas for possible future development include symptom assessment, evaluation of current practice and access to services and the development of information and training materials.


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