Patterns of chronic conditions are different for aging adults with ID

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By Philip McCallion, PhD, ACSW
Center for Excellence in Aging and Community Wellness, University at Albany

Multimorbidity is the presence of two or more chronic conditions and it is being widely studied in older populations. This study explores the degree to which multimorbidity is a feature of aging in persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) and what this means for their health and health care.

What did you do in your research?
We gathered information on 12 chronic conditions for 753 people with ID aged 40 years and over living in Ireland. Prevalence of multimorbidity was established and patterns were examined. The patterns of multimorbidity for people with ID were then compared with those reported for other older adults in general population.

For the 753 persons with ID aged 40 years and over included in the first wave of data collection for the
Intellectual Disability Supplement to The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (IDS-TILDA) information was gathered on the presence of 12 chronic conditions was collected using a standardized protocol administered in face to face interviews with persons with ID and/or their caregivers.

What did you find out?
Multimorbidity was established for 71% of this sample with women at highest risk. Rates of multimorbidity were high (63%) even among those aged 40-49 years. Eye disease and mental health problems were most often associated with a second condition and the most prevalent multimorbidity pattern was mental health/neurological disease.

What are the take-home messages?
Multimorbidity patterns for people with ID were different from the general population of aging persons. Physicians and other health care professionals should not treat older adults with ID with an assumption that their patterns of chronic conditions are the same. Further investigation, attention to mental health issues, and the development of treatment guidelines that recognize chronic condition disease load are critical to mitigating the negative impact of multiple chronic conditions and preventing additional disability in adults with ID as they age.

To learn more about these findings contact
Philip McCallion or visit Project Website.

Full Journal Article
McCarron, M., Swinburne, J., Burke, E., McGlinchey, E. Carroll, R. and McCallion, P. (2013). Patterns of multimorbidity in an older population of persons with an intellectual disability: Results from the intellectual disability supplement to the Irish longitudinal study on aging (IDS-TILDA). Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(1), 521-527.