The Arc of Massachusetts Fall Forum: Medical Issues Related to Aging with Disabilities

On Friday, October 26, The Arc of Massachusetts, in conjunction with The Dana Home Foundation, offered a Fall Forum on “Medical Issues Related to Aging with Disabilities.” In the words of one of the attendees, the three doctors who took part in the panel comprised a “dream team.”

Dr. Julie Moran

Dr. Stephanie Santoro

Dr. Ann Neumeyer

Dr. Ann Neumeyer, a neurologist and the Medical Director at the Lurie Center for Autism, began the Forum with a presentation entitled “Care of Adults with Autism and/or Intellectual Disabilities.” Next, Dr. Stephanie Santoro, Director of Quality Improvement Research for MGH’s Down Syndrome Program and a physician for both pediatric and adult patients at MGH, delivered a presentation on “Health Care of Adults with Down Syndrome.”

Both Dr. Neumeyer and Dr. Santoro laid out specific health issues that frequently occur in aging patients with autism and Down syndrome, respectively, and they talked about the importance of sleep, of understanding that certain behaviors or moods are often indicators of underlying health concerns or complaints, and of caregivers’ and physicians’ need to act as detectives, particularly when caring for patients with limited communication abilities.

Dr. Julie Moran, a geriatrician and consultant physician for the Department of Developmental Services and a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, rounded out the Forum with her presentation on “Aging and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,” emphasizing that “Change is the common theme of all geriatric assessment.” Specifically, Dr. Moran stressed the need for individuals, caregivers, and other members of the individual’s team to comb through memories and medical records to establish a historic baseline with regard to the individual’s basic functioning, skills, memory, behavior, language abilities, personality, and moods, for it is only when you compare Point A with Point B that an accurate geriatric assessment can be made. She also pointed out that arriving at an assessment is only the first step; it is then necessary to address the question “Now what?” to determine how to change the management of the individual’s care to properly prepare for the future.

This forum led by the dream team of medical expertise regarding aging with disabilities took place at the Lexington Community Center and was made possible by a generous grant from the Lexington Dana Home Foundation. Approximately 50 people enjoyed the Fall Forum in person. It was also enjoyed by a larger audience, as it was live-streamed on The Arc of Massachusetts Facebook page. It was also professionally filmed by LexMedia and will be available for viewing on The Arc of Massachusetts website in the coming days.

Written by Julie Heffernan
Advocacy Alliance Coordinator

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