Caregivers of people with ID hold conflicting attitudes about cancer

By Debbie Wyatt, RGN, DPSN, CERT ED, RNT, ENB 237, BA, MSC and Pat Talbot, RGN, RNLD, RNT, PG DIP, MA
University of Chester, United Kingdom

A growing body of evidence has highlighted the inequalities in health experienced by people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the UK. Many people with ID now experience a life expectancy that is approaching that of the general population and many of these individuals will be touched by cancer, either in relation to their own health or that of family or friends. The changing profile of this group influences the pattern of health care needs related to cancer and cancer prevention which means that people with ID need to be provided with information related to cancer and caregivers need to be confident and knowledgeable about their role in facilitating this effectively.

What did you do in your research?
The study used a survey approach to investigate cancer knowledge, and attitudes of paid caregivers of people with ID.

What did you find out?
The findings indicate that caregivers appear to hold conflicting attitudes about cancer but whilst they have some knowledge and understanding of the disease, cancer prevention strategies are not always applied in practice. Caregivers perceived a need for greater knowledge about cancer, which suggests that further training and education may be beneficial.

What are the take-home messages?
People with ID may experience challenges to understanding health promotion advice, recognizing early warning signs of cancer, and accessing health services. Caregivers are in a prime position to positively influence the health behaviors of individuals they support but need education and training in both cancer awareness and in how to advocate for health of individuals with ID. Working closely with health care providers to explore what cancer education is required to support caregivers in advocating for the health of individuals with ID is important in order to reduce cancer care inequalities.

To learn more about these findings contact Debbie Wyatt.

Full Journal Article
Wyatt, D. and Talbot, P. (2012). What knowledge and attitudes do paid carers of people with a learning disability have about cancer? European Journal of Cancer Care. Epub ahead of print.