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Int J Palliat Nurs. 2008 Apr;14(4):189-94.

Communication difficulties and intellectual disability in end-of-life care.

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St George's University of London, Division of Mental Health, London, UK.


Around 1-3% of the world's population has intellectual disabilities (Mash and Wolfe, 2004). Communication difficulties are a major obstacle in providing effective palliative care to this group. Problems may arise due to a lack of comprehension and a lack of verbal skills, affecting assessment and the provision of psychosocial support. This paper maps the communication difficulties experienced by people with intellectual disabilities within a palliative care setting, drawing on several research studies carried out by the authors. These include the time-consuming nature of effective communication, and difficulties around breaking bad news. The paper explores the ways in which people with intellectual disabilities may (mis)understand verbal information. Strategies for managing communication difficulties are outlined, including ways to use clear, unambiguous language. The authors conclude that the ability to communicate effectively with people with intellectual disabilities is a useful skill that will benefit all patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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