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The Mental Health of People with Disabilities

February 26, 2024

Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as adults without disabilities.  Call your doctor if your mental health gets in the way of your daily activities for at least 14 days in a month.

December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In the United States, up to 1 in 4 adults have a disability. Many people will experience a disability at some point during their lives. Disabilities limit how a child or adult functions. These limitations may include difficulty walking or climbing stairs; hearing; seeing; or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see.

Many Adults with Disabilities Report Frequent Mental Distress

A CDC study found that adults with disabilities report experiencing more mental distress than those without disabilities.1 In 2018, an estimated 17.4 million (32.9%) adults with disabilities experienced frequent mental distress, defined as 14 or more reported mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days. Frequent mental distress is associated with poor health behaviors, increased use of health services, mental disorders, chronic disease, and limitations in daily life.1

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines, and diminished health services greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities.2

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Free and confidential resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

It’s Okay Not to Feel Okay

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to stressful situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can depend on your background, your support systems (e.g., family or friends), your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors.

People with disabilities or developmental delays may respond strongly to the stress of a crisis, particularly if they are also at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses (for example, older people and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions).

How Are You Feeling?

We are often asked this question, and many of us say we’re “fine.” But this has been a difficult time lately, and emotions can be complex. You may be feeling sad, worried, or stressed.

It helps to stay positive and remind yourself of your strengths. Visit How Right Now for inspiration and resources to find what helps.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

  • Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health provider before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • Know where and how to get mental health treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.  During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected, less lonely, or isolated.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
  • Improving the Mental Health of People with Disabilities
  • CDC provides funding for two National Centers on Disability that focus on improving the quality of life for people living with disabilities.
  • Special Olympics’ Inclusive Health programming focuses on improving the physical and social-emotional well-being of people with intellectual disabilities by increasing inclusion in health care, wellness, and health systems for Special Olympics athletes and others with intellectual disabilities.
  • “I learned relaxation techniques and now always try these when I find myself overwhelmed. I would recommend these strategies to others, too. A strong mind is an important part to a happy body,” shares Kayte Barton, a Special Olympics athlete from Minnesota.  Barton was a part of the Special Olympics committee to help develop emotional health programming for Special Olympics athletes across the world in its flagship Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program.
  • Special Olympics’ Strong Mindfulness program offers free, 1-hour mindfulness sessions for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Participants learn deep breathing techniques, body awareness and progressive muscle relaxation, mindful movement, and guided meditation. They also receive a Strong Minds Activity Guide designed to help them develop their coping skills in everyday life.
  • The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) seeks to help people with disabilities and other chronic health conditions achieve health benefits through increased participation in all types of physical and social activities. NCHPAD’s M.E.N.T.O.R program, which stands for Mindfulness, Exercise and Nutrition to Optimize Recovery, takes a holistic approach to restoring, improving, and protecting health. The program divides health into three domains: physical, mental, and emotional.  Through this program, people who have acquired a new disability (e.g., spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury), a new diagnosis (e.g., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease), or have a congenital condition (e.g., cerebral palsy, spina bifida) learn the many ways life can be enhanced through health and wellness activities.

Disability and Mental Health Resources

As CDC honors International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we ask that you join us in being a part of the global movement to change attitudes toward, and promote the inclusion of, people with disabilities.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/features/mental-health-for-all.html

Safer Food Choices for Adults 65 and Over

February 20, 2024

Help Prevent Food Poisoning

Older adults have a higher risk of getting sick from food poisoning and having a more serious illness.

To prevent food poisoning, some foods are safer choices than others. That’s because some foods—such as undercooked meat and eggs, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized milk — are more often associated with foodborne illnesses. Use the table below as a guide to safer food choices.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/adults-65-over.html

Older Adult Drivers

February 12, 2024

In 2020, there were almost 48 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. This is a 68% increase since 2000.

Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash increases as people age. Thankfully, older adults can take steps to stay safer on the roads.

Thousands of older adults are injured or killed in the United States every year in traffic crashes.

In 2020, about 7,500 older adults were killed in traffic crashes, and almost 200,000 were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries. This means that each day, 20 older adults are killed and almost 540 are injured in crashes.

Age, gender, and age-related changes are major risk factors
  • Drivers aged 70+ have higher crash death rates per 1,000 crashes than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54). Higher crash death rates among this age group are primarily due to increased vulnerability to injury in a crash.
  • Across all age groups, males have substantially higher crash death rates than females.
  • Age-related changes in vision, physical functioning, and the ability to reason and remember, as well as some diseases and medications, might affect some older adults’ driving abilities.
Key steps to staying safe on the roads
  • The good news is that older adults are more likely to have safer driving behaviors than other age groups.
  • Taking these key steps can help adults of all ages, including older adults, stay safe on the road:
  • Always wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger
    Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.
  • Drive when conditions are safest
    Drive during daylight and in good weather. Conditions such as poor weather and driving at night increase the likelihood of crash injuries and deaths.
  • Don’t drink and drive
    Drinking and driving increases the risk of being in a crash because alcohol reduces coordination and impairs judgment.
Additional steps to stay safe on the road
  • Use CDC’s MyMobility Plan, a plan to stay mobile and independent as you age.
  • Follow a regular activity program to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions. Read the Are Your Medicines Increasing Your Risk of a Fall or a Car Crash fact sheet to learn more.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Plan your route before you drive.
  • Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left-turn signals, and easy parking.
  • Leave a large following distance between your car and the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking or texting on your phone, and eating.
  • Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend, using ride share services, or taking public transit.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/older_adult_drivers/index.html

Adding Physical Activity as an Older Adult

February 7, 2024

Adults 65 and older need a mix of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance activities each week to keep their bodies strong. Regular physical activity can help you live independently, have a better quality of life, and prevent or manage chronic disease.

It’s never too late to start being physically active! Pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you stick with them.

Tips for Being Physically Active

  • Try to do a variety of activities. This can make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Even if it’s hard to do some types of activities such as climbing stairs or walking, you can safely do other types of physical activity. Try airplane stretches [PDF-2.9MB] and chair [PDF-2.9MB] or desk exercises [PDF-1.3MB].
  • Lots of activities count, even things like mowing the lawn or carrying groceries, and it all adds up. Find what works for you.
  • If you take a break from your regular activity due to an illness or travel, start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.
  • If it is too hot, cold, or wet to be outside, try walking in a mall or look for an online fitness program you can do at home.
  • If losing weight is your goal, you may need to reduce the number of calories you eat and do more than the recommended amounts of physical activity.

Recommended Weekly Physical Activity

Every week, adults 65 and older need physical activities that include:

  • At least 150 minutes (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking. Or you need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
  • At least 2 days of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot.

See examples of how to fit this into a week.

What if You Have a Chronic Condition?

If you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and even reduce your risk of developing other conditions.

Ask your doctor if your health condition limits your ability to be active in any way. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities.

If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum recommended activity levels, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive.

What if You Have a Disability?

Regular physical activity provides people with disabilities  important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs, and muscles; improved brain health; and a better ability to do everyday tasks. Talk with your doctor before you begin a physical activity routine. A professional with experience in physical activity and disabilities can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity appropriate for you.

Other Reasons to Check With Your Doctor

Doing physical activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if you have been inactive, are not too fit, or are overweight, and want to do vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as jogging, it is safest to discuss this with your doctor.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adding-pa/activities-olderadults.htm.

Success Story: Angela Ross

February 5, 2024

Wurtland Nursing and Rehabilitation is excited to share resident Angela Ross’ Success Story!

Angela was admitted to Wurtland Nursing and Rehab in September due to COPD. Unfortunately, after a few months at the rehab center, she experienced an exacerbation, leading to a hospital transfer. Upon readmission to our community, Angela underwent significant medical changes, resulting in an astonishing weight loss of 200 pounds! She has progressed from requiring maximum assistance for standing and bed mobility to now walking up to 100 feet with a Rollator. Angela’s dedication is truly commendable; she has remained one of the hardest workers and our Care Team members loved supporting her throughout her healing journey. Congratulations to Angela and her Care Team on their success!

Maintaining a Care Plan for Older Adults

January 29, 2024

Developing and maintaining a care plan will help you balance both your life and that of the person to whom you are providing care!

Are you a caregiver for an older adult with dementia or another chronic health condition? If so, do they have a care plan? Having a care plan can help you as a caregiver, especially if there are multiple caregivers, to aid with transitions and to have all important information in one place.

WHAT IS A CARE PLAN?

A care plan is a form [1.48 MB] where you can summarize a person’s health conditions, specific care needs, and current treatments. The care plan should outline what needs to be done to manage the care needs. It can help organize and prioritize caregiving activities. A care plan can give you a sense of control and confidence when managing caregiving tasks and help assure you that the care recipient’s needs are being met.

Care plans can especially be helpful if you care for more than one person.  Forty-two million Americans are caring for someone aged 50 or older; 24% are providing care for at least two people.

WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN THE CARE PLAN?

The plan should include information about:

  • Personal Information (name, date of birth, contact information)
  • Health conditions
  • Medicines, dosages, and when/how given
  • Health care providers with contact information
  • Health insurance information
  • Emergency Contacts

HOW DO I DEVELOP A CARE PLAN?

  • Begin a care planning conversation with the person you care for. Use Complete Care Plan [PDF – 1 MB] to help start and guide the discussions.
  • If the care recipient is unable to provide all the information needed, talk to others who regularly interact with them (a family member or home nurse aide) and invite them to join the discussions and help complete the form.
  • Ask about suitable care options for the person you care for. Medicare covers appointments to manage chronic conditions and discuss advanced care plans, including planning appointments for people with Alzheimer’s, other dementias, memory problems, or suspected cognitive impairment.
  • Try to update the care plan every year, or more often if the person you care for has a change in health or medicines. Remember to respect the care recipient’s privacy after reviewing their personal information and discussing their health conditions.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A CARE PLAN?

  • Care plans can reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations and improve overall medical management for people with a chronic health condition, like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Care plans can support you, the caregiver, so you can stay healthy.
  • Care plans can help retain quality of life and independence for the care recipient.

WHAT ABOUT MY OWN HEALTH?

If you’re a caregiver, taking care of yourself is crucial. Make sure to discuss any concerns you have as a caregiver with your health care provider. Caregivers can experience emotional, psychological, and physical strain. In addition, caregivers often neglect their own health. This neglect can increase their risk of having multiple chronic conditions. Nearly 2 in 5 caregivers have at least two chronic health conditions. Caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and lower quality of life than caregivers of people with other chronic conditions.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/caregivers-month.html.

Seniors in Care Facilities Have More Protection Available This Year: CDC Encourages Vaccination Against Flu, COVID-19, and RSV

January 22, 2024

New research in this week’s MMWR finds that most nursing home residents haven’t received an updated COVID-19 vaccine or the new RSV vaccine.

This year, for the first time, vaccines are available to protect older adults in the United States against all three fall/winter respiratory illnesses: flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Older Americans who are not vaccinated are at greater risk of serious illness.

Leading up to this virus season, and throughout the fall, CDC has worked with other federal agencies, state and local health departments, and health care partners to address vaccine access issues and encourage uptake. CDC was a key participant in the Long Term Care Facility Summit on October 18, 2023, which was co-hosted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy. In addition to other activities, CDC regularly:

  • Monitors all reports and data about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.
  • Convenes bi-weekly calls with long-term care partners to address challenges/develop solutions.
  • Works to improve equitable access to vaccines by connecting manufacturers with long-term care pharmacies to prioritize vaccine distribution for the Bridge Access Program.
  • Distributes a weekly newsletter with respiratory virus resources and information specific to long-term care providers. (e.g., toolkits, FAQs, clinical resources, vaccine confidence resources)
  • Supports the education of partners through participation in speaking engagements and webinars.
  • Engages with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) toidentify solutions to address feedback from long-term care  partners around billing and reimbursement challenges which have been a barrier to vaccine administration. As a result, CMS issued a letter to plans and pharmacy benefit managers to outline the concerns and provide guidance on ways to improve practices.

Health care providers can continue to do their part by offering recommended vaccinations to residents. Nursing homes are encouraged to collaborate with state, local and federal public health, and long-term care pharmacy partners to address barriers contributing to low vaccination coverage. Vaccination is a key way to prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United States and the world.

Recognizing Symptoms of Dementia and Seeking Help

January 8, 2024

As we age, our brains change, but Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, up to 40% of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed. It helps to understand what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to brain health.

Normal brain aging may mean slower processing speeds and more trouble multitasking, but routine memory, skills, and knowledge are stable and may even improve with age. It’s normal to occasionally forget recent events such as where you put your keys or the name of the person you just met.

SYMPTOMS OF DEMENTIA OR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

In the United States, 6.2 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. People with dementia have symptoms of cognitive decline that interfere with daily life—including disruptions in language, memory, attention, recognition, problem solving, and decision-making. Signs to watch for include:

  • Not being able to complete tasks without help.
  • Trouble naming items or close family members.
  • Forgetting the function of items.
  • Repeating questions.
  • Taking much longer to complete normal tasks.
  • Misplacing items often.
  • Being unable to retrace steps and getting lost.

CONDITIONS THAT CAN MIMIC DEMENTIA

Symptoms of some vitamin deficiencies and medical conditions such as vitamin B12 deficiency, infections, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), or normal pressure hydrocephalus (a neurological condition caused by the build-up of fluid in the brain) can mimic dementia. Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause dementia-like symptoms. If you have these symptoms, it is important to talk to your health care provider to find out if there are any underlying causes for these symptoms.

For more information, see What Is Dementia?

HOW IS DEMENTIA DIAGNOSED?

A healthcare provider can perform tests on attention, memory, problem solving and other cognitive abilities to see if there is cause for concern. A physical exam, blood tests, and brain scans like a CT or MRI can help determine an underlying cause.

WHAT TO DO IF A LOVED ONE IS SHOWING SYMPTOMS

Talk with your loved one about seeing a health care provider if they are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia to get a brain health check up.

BE EMPOWERED TO DISCUSS MEMORY PROBLEMS

More than half of people with memory loss have not talked to their healthcare provider, but that doesn’t have to be you. Get comfortable with starting a dialogue with your health care provider if you observe any changes in memory, or an increase in confusion, or just if you have any questions. You can also discuss health care planning, management of chronic conditions, and caregiving needs.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/dementia-not-normal-aging.html.

Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings

December 18, 2023

Influenza is primarily a community-based infection that is transmitted in households and community settings. Each year, 5% to 20% of U.S. residents acquire an influenza virus infection, and many will seek medical care in ambulatory healthcare settings (e.g., pediatricians’ offices, urgent-care clinics). In addition, more than 200,000 persons, on average, are hospitalized each year for influenza-related complications. Healthcare-associated influenza infections can occur in any healthcare setting and are most common when influenza is also circulating in the community. Therefore, the influenza prevention measures outlined in this guidance should be implemented in all healthcare settings. Supplemental measures may need to be implemented during influenza season if outbreaks of healthcare-associated influenza occur within certain facilities, such as long-term care facilities and hospitals [refs: Infection Control Measures for Preventing and Controlling Influenza Transmission in Long-Term Care Facilities].

Influenza Modes of Transmission

Traditionally, influenza viruses have been thought to spread from person to person primarily through large-particle respiratory droplet transmission (e.g., when an infected person coughs or sneezes near a susceptible person). Transmission via large-particle droplets requires close contact between source and recipient persons, because droplets generally travel only short distances (approximately 6 feet or less) through the air. Indirect contact transmission via hand transfer of influenza virus from virus-contaminated surfaces or objects to mucosal surfaces of the face (e.g., nose, mouth) may also occur. Airborne transmission via small particle aerosols in the vicinity of the infectious individual may also occur; however, the relative contribution of the different modes of influenza transmission is unclear. Airborne transmission over longer distances, such as from one patient room to another has not been documented and is thought not to occur. All respiratory secretions and bodily fluids, including diarrheal stools, of patients with influenza are considered to be potentially infectious; however, the risk may vary by strain. Detection of influenza virus in blood or stool in influenza infected patients is very uncommon.

Fundamental Elements to Prevent Influenza Transmission

Preventing transmission of influenza virus and other infectious agents within healthcare settings requires a multi-faceted approach. Spread of influenza virus can occur among patients, HCP, and visitors; in addition, HCP may acquire influenza from persons in their household or community. The core prevention strategies include:

  • administration of influenza vaccine
  • implementation of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • appropriate management of ill HCP
  • adherence to infection control precautions for all patient-care activities and aerosol-generating procedures
  • implementing environmental and engineering infection control measures.

Successful implementation of many, if not all, of these strategies is dependent on the presence of clear administrative policies and organizational leadership that promote and facilitate adherence to these recommendations among the various people within the healthcare setting, including patients, visitors, and HCP. These administrative measures are included within each recommendation where appropriate. Furthermore, this guidance should be implemented in the context of a comprehensive infection prevention program to prevent transmission of all infectious agents among patients and HCP.

To learn more, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/healthcaresettings.htm.

People at Higher Risk for Flu Complications

December 11, 2023

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu.

If you are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, flu vaccination is especially important. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu.

Following is a list of all the health and age factors that are known to increase a person’s risk of getting serious flu complications:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Children younger than 2 years old1
  • Asthma
  • Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • People who are obese with a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher
  • People younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
  • People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or some cancers such as leukemia) or medications (such as those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, or persons with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system)
  • People who have had a stroke

Other people at higher risk from flu:

  • Pregnant people and people up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk for hospitalization with flu, including non-Hispanic Black persons, Hispanic or Latino persons, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons
  • 1 Although all children younger than 5 years old are considered at higher risk of serious flu complications, the highest risk is for those younger than 2 years old, with the highest hospitalization and death rates among infants younger than 6 months old.

Information on groups at higher risk from COVID-19 is available.’

To learn more information, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm.