Quality of Life As It Relates to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about quality of life. This is a concept often used in medical ethics to determine whether someone’s life is “meaningful”, in this sense, “meaningful” enough for life-saving treatments. For instance, when I was a baby and sustained a brain bleed, my parents wondered whether I would later have sufficient quality of life for life support to make sense.

People with intellectual and other disabilities are, in this respect, often seen as having a lower quality of life regardless of their subjective experience compared to people without disabilities. After all, many people with intellectual disabilities cannot work, live independently or have long-term romantic relationships. That is, not in the same ways that non-disabled people can.

However, if we judge people’s quality of life by their earnings, their ability to live independently without any supports, and non-disabled people’s ideas of what constitutes a “normal” long-term romantic relationship, we are discriminating against rather than affirming people with disabilities.

Another way of employing the concept of quality of life is to look at what exactly brings meaning to each individual’s life, rather than to measure how meaningful each life is by how well-accomplished an individual is. This way, quality of life is useful even for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. The Dutch Center for Consultation and Expertise has created a questionnaire on quality of life, which should be used as a stepping stone for first determining a person’s quality of life and then ways in which it can be improved.

For people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities, quality of life really is often determined by tiny things. I mean, even for them self-determination and independence might be underlying values, but these are reflected in very small things. For example, I read about a discussion on the quality of life questionnaire between a family member and staff of a profoundly and multiply disabled person. The topic concerned his daily walks. One of the people involved said the client probably preferred to be taken on walks at least twice a day, while the other said he seemed not to like his walks at all. The difference turned out to lie in the way the people approached the walks: the person with whom the client didn’t seem to want to walk, pushed the wheelchair at a rapid pace without stopping, while the other walked slowly and took frequent breaks to show the client his surroundings. This shows how quality of life may be as simple as a slower walking pace.

5 thoughts on “Quality of Life As It Relates to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities #AtoZChallenge

  1. You can’t quantify people’s quality of life, though parents of very disabled children come closest to knowing if their child is happy. A non verbal very disabled person may be enjoying the sun on their face and peaceful moments that people with busy lives miss.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree completely about that last point. Re parents being able to judge their child’s quality of life, I can see your point too, but it isn’t always true. My parents, for instance, sincerely thought my life only had meaning because of my intelligence, because that’s something they consider important. Thereby, they were projecting their own values onto me.

      Liked by 1 person

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