High incidence of falls and increased risk of fall-related injuries are seen in individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). The Berg Balance Scale (BBS) is a reliable instrument for balance assessment in the population of (older) adults with ID. The aims of this study were to assess the balance capacities of a large group of older adults with ID with the BBS and look for gender and age effects, as well as reasons for drop-out on separate items, and to identify feasible subtests for subgroups in which the complete BBS is not feasible. The balance capacities of 1050 older clients with borderline to profound ID of three Dutch care-provider services (mean age 61.6 [sd=8.0]) were assessed with the BBS. The participants who completed all items of the BBS (n=508) were the functionally more able part of the study sample. Results showed that even this functionally more able part had poor balance capacities, with a mean BBS score of 47.2, 95% CI [46.3, 48.0], similar to adults in the general population aged around 20 years older. Balance capacities decreased with increasing age and females had poorer balance capacities than males. Difficulties understanding the task and physical limitations were most often the reasons for drop-out. Feasible subtests were identified for the subgroups with very low cognitive levels and wheelchair users. Low balance capacities of older adults with ID show the need for regular screening and the urge for fall prevention programs for individuals with ID.
Keywords: Balance capacities; Berg Balance Scale; Feasibility; Intellectual disabilities; Older adults.
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