Bereavement and People with Intellectual Disabilities

Dodd P.

Published: M.D. Thesis, TCD

Keywords: Bereavement • intellectual disability

(30 Jul 2009)
For most people, the loss of a loved one is a tragedy unequalled by any other. It affects every family and raises policy and logistic issues for the health and social service agencies of every community.

Currently, people with intellectual disabilities are living longer than previously and are experiencing more and varied relationships. However for most people with intellectual disabilities, they are looked after at home by relatives. As a result, the degree of attachment and dependence may become very strong. It is very clear that when these very close bonds are broken, by the death of the carer, it may prove catastrophic for the individual.

Results: Bereaved people with intellectual disabilities experience some of the symptoms of complicated grief, as in the general population. While individual service providers and carers appear to be providing good support to bereaved individuals, the support is ad. Hoc, and not based on adequate training programmes, or agreed policies of service delivery. In addition, nationally, the assessment procedures to assess and support vulnerable adults with intellectual disabilities are inadequate.

Further work is needed to refine the relevant symptoms of complicated grief in this population, with a view to informing the debate on including complicated grief as a distinct diagnosis. This will greatly assist informed assessment and treatment.

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