Caregivers’ effect on weight management in adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

L.T. Ptomey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., C.A. Gibson, Ph.D., J. Lee, Ph.D., D.K. Sullivan, Ph.D., R.D., R.A. Washburn, Ph.D , A.M. Gorczyca, Ph.D, J.E. Donnelly, Ep.D.

Disability and Health JournalVol. 10Issue 4p542–547



Caregivers of adults with IDD often play a large role in the ability of adults with IDD to lose weight.


The purpose of this study was to determine to examine the effects of the caregivers’ perceived burdens and self-efficacy and their relationship to an individual (family member or paid staff) on weight changes across a weight management intervention for adults with IDD.


Overweight/obese adults with mild to moderate IDD, along with assigned caregivers who served as their study partner, were randomized to an 18-month weight management intervention. The living environment and caregiver relationship were assessed at baseline. Caregivers completed questionnaires regarding perceived hassles, uplifts, and self-efficacy in helping the participant follow a weight management intervention.


147 adults with IDD (∼57% women and ∼16% minorities) were included in data analysis. After 18 months, there were no differences in weight loss between participants who had a family member as their study partner and those who had a paid assistant as their study partner (−5.5 ± 5.2% vs. −5.6± 5.3% p = 0.16). However, paid assistants reported more hassles with following the diet intervention at 6 months (p < 0.05). Participants who had a paid assistant as their study partner were more likely to have multiple study partners during the study, which was correlated with smaller weight loss.


While caregivers are important for weight management of adults with IDD, the caregiver’s relationship to the participant does not affect weight change in an intervention.