Monday, August 2, 2010

Bil and the Dentist

Sometimes I could take person-centered planning and....I wonder how many people with intellectual disabilities have been harmed by the assumption that the client always knows best.

This isn't true, I'm sorry to say, even if a lot of advocates will disagree with me.  

I am not going to compare Bil to a child, but let me ask a question of those advocates.  Would you let your toddler make his or her medical decisions?  I didn't think so.  Their brain isn't fully developed and they don't have the capacity to make those kinds of decisions.  If you did let a toddler make those decisions, wouldn't it be a type of child abuse?

Bil, of course is an adult, but let us be blunt, he has intellectual disabilities.  He is no child.  In the eyes of the law, he is able to make his own decisions.  But can he?

Bil has always resisted going to the dentist.  This is a common behavior among those with autism.  So my mother in law, without support from those who work with Bil, had stopped bringing him.   So we felt we had to step in, my husband and I.  I hate to invade his privacy in this way, but I have an important point to make.  He had breath that could knock you out at 50 paces.  One time I had to ride in a car with him, in the back seat, and nearly passed out.  I am not exaggerating.  This wasn't halitosis.  This was a sure sign (to me) that his teeth were rotting.

I've listened to my dentist, who teaches that periodontal disease can impact health dramatically, causing a host of other problems, including bacteria going into the heart.

We had several conversations with his MSC (Medicaid Service Provider).  She didn't seem to think it was a problem.  But finally, we got through to her, proving this wasn't more than a cosmetic issue.  It was a health issue.

Bless her, she found dental care for him.  This is not easy for people with autism to find.  We did some of our own research (the Special Olympics can be a source for this type of information, by the way and I would love to give a little shout-out to them) but she got Bil to the dentist.  He had to be sedated (this is common, too) and he was not well pleased by what had to be done to him.

But the dentist was able to treat what he found.  Thank heavens!

But left to Bil and his feelings about his health, his teeth would have kept rotting.

He was not capable of making an informed decision, any more than the man with stroke-caused dementia I wrote about in my last post.  

Why do medical people think they can treat the disabled like that?  Do they not deserve to have steps taken to preserve their health?  Are they not entitled to live their full life spans?

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