Special Hope Foundation Grantee, Dr. Clarissa Kripke, recently spoke on a panel for Support for Families in San Francisco, and told this story:
“A man was going around doing really challenging things, like going up to law enforcement and grabbing them, laying down in front of cars, a whole variety of things that are quite alarming and dangerous. He was losing his housing, because his caregivers didn’t feel they could keep him safe. He’d also seen multiple doctors. Then a primary care doctor did a really careful physical exam, from head to toe — and they found a little toy bead in his ear, removed it — and the behaviors stopped.
For people who have cognitive and communication differences, illness frequently presents as a change in behavior or function instead of a patient complaining of a sign or symptom. For example, a broken bone is not usually a hard diagnosis to make. A person comes in and says, “I fell, and I think I broke my ankle.” Their doctor does an x-ray and sure enough, you broke your ankle. But in situations where people are unable to effectively communicate the cause of their distress, it’s amazing how easy it is to miss something as obvious as a broken bone. If it is hard to notice a broken bone, imagine how easy it is to miss something such as a headache or heartburn?
Whenever there’s a change in behavior or function, it’s important to think that it could be a medical problem.”
Dr. Kripke is a Clinical Professor UCSF Family and Community Medicine, and the Director of Developmental Primary Care. She treats many of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most medically fragile and behaviorally complex people with developmental disabilities. She is also the parent of an autistic teen.
The mission of the Special Hope Foundation is to promote the establishment of comprehensive health care for adults with developmental disabilities designed to address their unique and fundamental needs.
Thank you, Dr. Kripke, and thank you Shannon!
Next on the Blog: Special Hope is attending the USC Body Computing Conference, an event designed for those seeking a 360-degree perspective on digital health technology. Stay tuned…