People with intellectual disabilities often have difficulty telling caregivers they’re not feeling well. This poses a problem in Wisconsin’s residential care facilities, where employees have not been trained to recognize residents’ health problems as they grow older.
The state of Wisconsin now requires that residential care workers complete 15 hours of training annually, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed a new online course to meet this need. The goal is to improve the quality of life for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens and their caregivers.
Supporting Older People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Course for Promoting Health was developed by UW-Madison experts in geriatrics: Barbara J. Bowers of the School of Nursing; Suzanna Waters Castillo of the Division of Continuing Studies; and Kim Nolet of the Center for Aging Research and Education. Participants will learn to recognize the normal changes that occur as people age, to partner with health-care providers, and to involve family members in health-care decisions.
“The course will help ensure that intellectually disabled people don’t suffer from undiagnosed problems that can be treated successfully,” says Bowers. “If staff identify these problems early, it could delay relocation to nursing homes and prevent hospitalizations and unnecessary suffering. As a result, it will provide a significant financial benefit to families and to the state of Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Idea in action
Supporting Older People with Intellectual Disabilities is a collaboration among the Division of Continuing Studies, the School of Nursing, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Its self-paced instructional approach is accessible to all residential care workers, including those who speak English as a second language. The online delivery makes training possible for residential care facilities with small staffs and limited budgets.
“Owners of residential care facilities will benefit from employees who better understand health-related changes in elderly people with intellectual disabilities.”
The partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and UW-Madison ensures that Supporting Older People with Intellectual Disabilities is based in state-of-the-art research.
“It’s the latest example of how our UW-Madison nursing faculty translate their scientific and clinical expertise into knowledge for practice,” says Katharyn May, dean of the School of Nursing. “They make it accessible and useful for those who practice in parts of our health-care system where the challenges are huge and resources are very, very thin.”