Though much of the research involving autism is geared toward understanding its development in children, those children eventually grow up and face new challenges in adulthood, and many of these adults live full lives well into their senior years. If you have an elderly loved one who is autistic, you may be concerned about some the health risks he or she faces as a result of this condition. The staff at Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care Caledon families trust, wants to share some thoughts regarding these risks and what you can do to help reduce them.
Autism has traditionally been viewed as a brain disorder. Symptoms of autism, including communication difficulties, social impairments, and unusual behaviors, can lead to isolation. Because many seniors with autism have a desire to connect with others but have trouble doing, a number of emotional health issues can result. Autistic adults have considerably higher rates of depression and suicide attempts than non-autistic adults.
New research suggests autism extends beyond the brain and actually affects the whole body. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found autistic adults were more likely to develop a wider range of physical health conditions than their non-autistic counterparts. The study showed adults with autism were nearly twice as likely to experience high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
The increased health risks among autistic adults may be due to a number of different factors. Seniors with autism often find it difficult to engage with medical providers and seek medical attention, resulting in a lack of preventative medical care. They are also more likely to have picky eating habits and restricted diets, which can lead to obesity. Social isolation may contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk for obesity and diabetes, and certain medications used to treat the symptoms of autism can lead to weight gain and gastrointestinal issues like constipation.
The first step in helping your loved one remain healthy is to find a general practitioner who has experience with autistic adults. It is important to make the doctor aware of your loved one’s specific sensitivities and behavioral issues so he or she can adjust accordingly. It may even be necessary to arrange a few appointments with the doctor before he or she delves into a detailed exam and treatment. This gives your loved one the opportunity to build a connection and sense of trust with the physician. You may also want to hire an hourly or live-in caregiver in Caledon who understands how to work with autistic seniors. This can help prevent your loved one from feeling isolated and encourage him or her to adopt healthier habits.
Many of the activities Home Care Assistance uses for Caledon dementia care may also be useful if your loved one has autism. Our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method is designed not only to slow cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia, but also to help build new routines to look forward to, something many seniors with autism rely on for their mental and emotional wellbeing. For more information on our in-home care services, call 905-951-8885 today to speak with an experienced Care Manager.