“The number one issue is lack of training to support healthy lifestyles [for individuals with MR] across the lifespan.”
The challenges and rewards of treating individuals with MR are rarely addressed in the training of physicians and other health care professionals. However, anecdotal evidence and limited data indicate that opportunities for clinical experiences with these patients, early in medical and other health professions training, increase the capacity of providers to value and accept these patients into their practices.
Potential strategies: Evaluate existing health professions training curricula that address health and MR and disseminate those found to be efficacious. Partner with families and individuals with MR to develop and implement training modules. Use providers experienced in the care of individuals with MR and family members to mentor health professions students, residents, and fellows in the care of this population. Develop and implement criteria for accreditation and certification of health professions schools and training programs, based on inclusion of mental retardation in their curricula.
Potential curriculum topics: Dual diagnosis; health risks and expression, in people with MR, of age-related conditions found in other populations; direct interactions with these patients, such as history-taking, including cultural practices, diagnosis, treatment, and counseling and supporting individuals in wellness and in adherence to treatment regimens; appropriate use of medications and alternative behavior management techniques; working with individuals and their families to develop and update goal-oriented health care plans, including lifetime plans and plans for transition points; and use of augmentative communications devices and other specialized equipment.