Meeting the health needs of older people with intellectual disabilities: exploring the experiences of residential social care staff

Ruth Northway, Daniella Holland-Hart, Robert Jenkins

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Abstract

Older people with intellectual disabilities often experience high levels of health needs and multiple morbidities but they may be supported by residential care staff with little or no previous experience of identifying and meeting health needs. Little is known regarding how they undertake this health-related role and this exploratory study seeks to address this gap. A purposive sample of 14 managers of supported living accommodation in Wales were interviewed in 2014 to determine their experiences of supporting tenants in relation to age-related health needs. The semi-structured interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed. Three of the emerging themes are reported in this paper: meeting health needs, the consequences of ageing and relationships. Findings indicate that residential care staff support older people with intellectual disabilities with complex and multiple health needs: they monitor health status, support access to healthcare, provide additional support arising from changing health needs and advocate for tenants in the context of healthcare. However, their role is often not understood by healthcare professionals. The importance of staff having a long-term relationship with those they support was identified as being important to identifying any health-related changes. The need to develop effective relationships with healthcare staff was also noted. It is concluded that there is a need for better understanding among health staff of the role of residential social care workers and for further research regarding health-related communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923 - 931
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016

Keywords

  • ageing
  • health needs
  • intellectual disabilities
  • Social care

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