Care for a person with Learning Disabilities

Care for a person with Learning Disabilities: Reflect on your professional nursing experience. Have you ever had to care for someone with a disability (e.g. sensory deficits, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, communication disorder…

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Care for a person with Learning Disabilities

Paper details

Reflect on your professional nursing experience. Have you ever had to care for someone with a disability (e.g. sensory deficits, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, communication disorder, etc.). How did you adapt your care in terms of the teaching-learning process? 

Solution

Care for a person with Learning Disabilities

I have had the opportunity of taking care of people with mild to severe learning disabilities. In one of my first experiences, I took care of an adult patient with severe learning disabilities at the end of life. The patient needed care and support with mobility, personal care, and communication. Besides, I was also in-charge of palliative care needs ranging from symptom management to leading coordination with family and friends.

Some of the additional needs and challenges included feelings of vulnerability and isolation, high risk of physical and mental health problems, and communication difficulties that made it hard for the patient to express their symptoms or discomfort. I began with assessments on the patient’s learning needs to understand how learning disabilities affected the patient’s ability to learn. I reviewed her medical records, history, and physical examinations.

I also assessed the knowledge and attitude needs of the patient, and the close family members. This included the patient’s readiness to learn and her expectations. Even though cognitive and psychomotor learning were limited for the patient, the assessments highlighted that patient’s strengths were in affective learning, which included changes in attitudes, values, and feelings.

Hence, it was imperative to ensure the patient was the center of the learning process in the teaching plan and was actively engaged in the learning process and this gave the patient a sense of participation and control over the process (Thompson, 2017). I also had to personalize the communication approach and provide more time.

Besides, I found it essential to make adjustments to the teaching plan and ensure it was personalized, clear and straightforward (Voss et al., 2017). Some of the adjustments included communicating through easy to read materials and pictures, doubling appointment times, and involving more family and friends, including a religious leader.

The adjustments were as a result of coordination with the carer and the physician on the learning capabilities and expectations of the patient. Their input was essential as we could identify the goals of care, and communicate them with the patient and family members. The coordination also improved the communication framework, immensely improving the experience of the patient and family members.

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In caring and the implementation stage, I adjusted the communication approach to ensure that I understood how the patient took in the information and her expressions and reactions. While the patient found it challenging to communicate verbally, her gestures and facial expressions were her primary means of expression.

At first, her family caregiver helped me comprehend the patient’s expressions, identify distress, and build a relationship with the patient. From the coordination with the caregiver, I was able to identify the patient’s adaptive behavior (avoiding specific movements and keeping area still), her self-distracting behaviors as well as monitor behavior for withdrawal or low mood.

Besides, the primary caregiver, close family members helped determine and identify potential patient responses to distress. The coordination with the caregiver also made the patient more comfortable at first, especially during meaningful discussions. I learned that establishing a relationship with the patient and the carer is the first step of gaining the patient’s trust, subsequently understanding the best ways to personalize care

We approached the issue of consent, capacity, and decision-making by assuming that the patient could make decisions unless proved otherwise, gave time and communicated through clear and straightforward approaches, and supported the patient to make the decision wherever possible. Besides, we assessed the capacity to make decisions on each decision to ensure that the patient was capable of comprehending the risks and possible treatment outcomes.

In conclusion, the experience shaped my understanding of caregiving to a person with learning disabilities. In assessing the patient’s learning needs, I found it imperative to understand the attitudes and expectations of the patient and close family members. By understanding this, I was able to tailor the experience to meet the patient’s learning needs through adjustments, coordinated care, and extensive engagement with the patient.

References

  • Thompson, D. L. (2017). A framework to guide effective patient education. Primary Health Care, 27(2).
  • Voss, H., Vogel, A., Wagemans, A. M., Francke, A. L., Metsemakers, J. F., Courtens, A. M., & de Veer, A. J. (2017). Advance care planning in palliative care for people with intellectual disabilities: a systematic review. Journal of pain and symptom management, 54(6), 938-960.

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Regards,

Cathy, CS.