Nutritional health for people with developmental disabilities

Making choices about nutritional health is essential for our individuals, irrespective of their socio-cultural backgrounds or age. When it comes to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, decision-making regarding health and nutrition can contribute to a better quality of life. Including positive lifestyle choices like exercising regularly can also lead to cultivating positive health behaviors. 

Effective adoption of positive health strategies is an opportunity to mitigate health risks that come with chronic disabilities. Management of a nutritional diet is critical to prevent health issues and symptoms that can lead to functional limitations of an individual over extended periods. Including healthcare professionals and community-based support in the decision-making about nutritional health can create a holistic physical and mental well-being system. 

Why is nutrition important in people with disabilities?

Nutrition and a balanced diet can positively impact the health of an individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Similarly, malnutrition with a disability can lead to significant health problems that can affect the cognitive and sensory functionality of an individual. In addition, certain social factors, like an individual's financial background or education, prevent them from getting access to adequate nutrition. 

Eradicating these factors is vital to reduce the risks of mental health disabilities and chronic conditions from which an individual is already suffering. People with disabilities have particular needs when it comes to their health. Focus on nutritional services helps in better management of their physical needs in order to promote overall well-being. 

Policymaking on a federal level needs to include the impact of malnutrition on people living with disabilities to counteract the disadvantages that an individual faces throughout their lifetime. Both adults in children are equally vulnerable to malnutrition, mainly because of a lack of physical access to nutritional food. It can become a human rights issue; therefore, federal interventions are required to provide access to and awareness about nutrition for people with intellectual disabilities. 

What are the five 5 categories of nutritional assessment?

Nutritional assessment is important to understand the physical needs of an individual with disabilities and to identify the possible risk factors that can lead to malnutrition. Nutritionists and dielectric technicians are qualified to perform medical nutrition therapy to counteract any effects of malnutrition on an individual through adequate diet and education. Dietetic technicians use the Nutrition Care Process (NCP), which assesses existing problems and risk factors to provide the best solution and intervention methods. The five domains included in the Nutrition Care Process are: 

  • The nutrition-related history and the eating habits of an individual which has led to the current condition
  • The biochemical data through required tests to assess the effect of the diet on the body
  • Anthropometric measurements
  • Physical assessment of the individual to determine the impact of nutritional choices
  • The history of the individual to help monitor the projected outcomes

The overall result of the intervention plan can be enhanced after taking the five domains of nutritional assessment into consideration. 

What are some ways to improve the nutritional health of people with disabilities?

The standard of care is contingent on many factors for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Along with providing adequate physical and social support, the caregivers also need to focus on the individual's nutritional needs. The primary standards of care include providing appropriate nutrition support and knowledgeable encouragement as and when required. Social support for autonomy can also contribute towards making good food choices by involving the individual in grocery shopping and planning meals. 

Community activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits can also encourage positive behaviors. Under the minimum standard of care for individuals with disabilities, the following three levels are necessary to achieve successful nutritional support:

  • Providing a diet that is safe to consume and covers the nutritional requirements of the individual
  • Providing a diet or a meal plan tailored to the specific needs of the individual according to their disability and age
  • Encouragement to keep consuming the healthy foods appropriate for their health condition or food that lowers the risk of future health complications

Additionally, including the input of the individual and allowing them to make choices in different food groups can also lead to the effective adoption of better lifestyle choices.

What is the main health condition a nutritional diet can ease in disability?

Individuals with developmental disabilities are at higher risk for physical and mental health complications. Adults with disabilities also face marginalization, functional limitations, and a feeling of helplessness due to a lack of autonomy. A nutritional diet will help an individual remain a contributing member of the community while staying healthy and active. The primary health condition that can improve with a nutritious diet is the physical health of the individual. 

Over time, adults with disabilities might face functional limitations. It can be mitigated with exercise and having balanced meals. Aerobic exercising with supplementary nutrients can improve Heart function and prevent complications with lung functions that are often accompanied by chronic diseases. Additionally, along with the physical state of an individual, their mental health will improve, contributing to a better quality of life. 

What are some common health issues and nutrition needs associated with a disability?

Some common health issues associated with intellectual and developmental disabilities include a poorer disposition. Social opportunities and access to healthcare facilities also dictate the physical and mental well-being of an individual. They also risk developing severe functional limitations and serious mental illnesses like depression. Poor lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking with a lack of exercise can contribute to numerous secondary conditions along with the primary chronic health problem. 

Some of the secondary conditions include increased pain, risk of injury, fatigue, obesity, pressure sores, and bladder problems. Malnutrition can impact overall health, so managing the diet should be based on the changing needs and lifestyle of the individual. Creating opportunities to initiate positive health behaviors can not only mitigate the risk of developing secondary conditions but can also minimize the progression of the primary disability. It is crucial to consider the health risks associated with a particular disability to adjust the nutritional plan accordingly. Including the person in their diet plan can also ensure better participation and continuation of healthy habits.