Category Archives: Disabilities

Researchers call for more study on Agent Orange effects on vets and their kids.

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'Ranch_Hand'_run agent orange By Mike Hixenbaugh, The Virginian-Pilot, and Charles Ornstein, ProPublica

More than two decades of studying Agent Orange exposure hasn’t produced a solid understanding of how the toxic herbicide has harmed Vietnam War veterans and possibly their children, according to a report released Thursday.

Additional research is long overdue, the report said, but the federal government hasn’t done it.

Those are among the conclusions of a committee of researchers that, since 1991, has been charged by Congress with reviewing all available research into the effects of Agent Orange, which the U.S. military sprayed by the millions of gallons in Vietnam to kill forests and destroy enemy cover.

Over the years, the biennial reports produced by the committee have identified numerous illnesses linked to the herbicide, in some cases leading the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend disability compensation to thousands more veterans.

But in its tenth and final Agent Orange report 2014 with most Vietnam vets now well into their 60s or older 2014 the committee concluded there’s still much to learn and not enough research underway, especially related to potential health consequences for the children and grandchildren of veterans who were exposed.

“Although progress has been made in understanding the health effects of exposure to the chemicals,” the committee members wrote near the end of the 1,115-page report, there are still “significant gaps in our knowledge.” Continue reading

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The agonizing limbo of abandoned nursing home residents

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Bruce Anderson about a year before his accident. (Photo courtesy of Sara Anderson)

By Anna Gorman
KHN

A bad bout of pneumonia sent Bruce Anderson to Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento last May.

As soon as he recovered, hospital staff tried to return him to the nursing home where he had been living for four years.

But the home refused to readmit him, even after being ordered to do so by the state. Nearly nine months later, Anderson, 66, is still in the hospital.

“I’m frustrated,” said his daughter, Sara Anderson. “You cannot just dump someone in the hospital.”

Anderson said her father, who has a brain injury that causes dementia-like symptoms, is confined to the hospital bed and frequently given anti-psychotic medications.

She believes the nursing home, Norwood Pines Alzheimer’s Care Center, refused to readmit him because it wanted to make room for more lucrative and less burdensome residents.

“I didn’t have any question this was about money,” she said.

Bruce Anderson is the victim of a flawed readmission system for patients who want to return to their nursing homes after spending time in the hospital. Continue reading

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Fall prevention essential to preserving health of older adults

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Kim, Alice 09 colorBy Alice Kim, MD
Virginia Mason Issaquah Medical Center
Contributing Writer

If you are an older adult a simple thing can change your life, like tripping on uneven pavement or slipping on a slick surface. If you fall, you could break a bone, like thousands of older men and women do every year. Although a broken bone might not sound bad, it could prompt more serious health issues.

Many things can cause a fall. Your eyesight, hearing and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet or blood vessels can affect your balance. In addition, some medications can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy and make you more likely to fall.

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Virginia Mason physical therapists working with a patient on gait and stability.

However, it’s important to not allow a fear of falling keep you from being active. Doing things like gathering with friends, gardening, walking or going to the local senior center helps you stay healthy. The good news is there are simple ways to prevent most falls.

Do the right things

If you take care of your overall health, you may be able to lower your chances of falling. Most of the time, falls and accidents don’t just happen. Here are a few tips intended to help you avoid falls and broken bones:

  • Stay physically active. Plan an individualized exercise program that works for you. Regular exercise improves muscle health and makes you stronger. It also helps keep your joints, tendons and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities – such as walking or climbing stairs – can help slow bone loss from osteoporosis.

Continue reading

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Infertility treatments not associated with increased risk of developmental delay – study

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Infertility treatments do not appear to contribute to developmental delays in children

From the National Institutes of Health

IVF egg thumbNIH researchers find no risk by age 3 from in vitro fertilization, other widespread treatments.

Children conceived via infertility treatments are no more likely to have a developmental delay than children conceived without such treatments, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the New York State Department of Health and other institutions.

The findings, published online in JAMA Pediatrics, may help to allay longstanding concerns that conception after infertility treatment could affect the embryo at a sensitive stage and result in lifelong disability.

The authors found no differences in developmental assessment scores of more than 1,800 children born to women who became pregnant after receiving infertility treatment and those of more than 4,000 children born to women who did not undergo such treatment.

“When we began our study, there was little research on the potential effects of conception via fertility treatments on U.S. children,” said Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Our results provide reassurance to the thousands of couples who have relied on these treatments to establish their families.” Continue reading

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Coping with autism and puberty

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Alexander Brown, 14, sits in his living room on Thursday, May 14, 2015. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Alexander is having a hard time with puberty and is lashing out physically (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Alexander Brown, 14, sits in his living room on Thursday, May 14, 2015. He was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Alexander is having a hard time with puberty and is lashing out physically (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

By Heidi de Marco

SHERRILL, N.Y. — Alexander Brown swings back and forth on a makeshift hammock bolted to a wooden beam in his living room. The swaying seems to soothe the otherwise uneasy 14-year-old. His mother gazes at him from the couch and their eyes briefly connect.

“I would love to be in Alexander’s head just for a few hours,” said Diane Brown, her head slumped against her hand. “He’s having a hard time going through puberty right now.”

Alexander is confused, moody and frustrated – all very typical for a teen during adolescence. But Alexander’s transition is especially difficult for the Browns, a family of six in Sherrill, N.Y., because he is severely autistic.

Puberty is causing chaos in Alexander’s once-predictable world. He can’t talk and struggles to express himself. “He’s angry and he’s sad . . . and he doesn’t understand why,” Brown said. “I truly feel for him.”

Alexander, the third of four children, rarely sleeps through the night. He gets up at all hours to wander the kitchen, take a shower or throw a tantrum. He’s begun lashing out physically.

Brown, 45, is exhausted. She averages four hours of sleep a night and powers through most days with the help of Red Bull. Continue reading

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States work to help people with disabilities find work

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WheelchairBy Sophie Quinton
Stateline

Michael Bethke, 19, works part time at a grocery store in Clark, South Dakota.

He started out as an intern through the state’s Project Skills program for high school students with disabilities, and now performs tasks like unloading vans. “I like it a lot,” he says of his job.

It’s been 25 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibited employment discrimination against people with disabilities. Yet as the nation celebrates the law’s anniversary, a stark divide remains: men and women like Bethke are still less likely to have jobs than people who don’t have a disability.

About a third of the more than 20 million working-age Americans who have a sensory, mental or physical disability are employed, according to an analysis of 2013 U.S.

Census data by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. At the same time, other surveys show people with disabilities want to work. Continue reading

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Bill would allow motorized wheelchairs in bike lanes – Las Vegas Sun News

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WheelchairBicyclists might have to start sharing the road with motorized wheelchair users under a proposed Nevada law.

The bill would allow motorized wheelchairs to enter bike lanes if a sidewalk isn’t available or passable by wheelchair. Wheelchair users would be required to yield the right-of-way to bikers.

via Bill would allow motorized wheelchairs in bike lanes – Las Vegas Sun News.

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High court considers if providers can sue states for higher Medicaid pay

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Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By Phil Galewitz
KHN

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could block hospitals, doctors — or anyone else — from suing states over inadequate payment rates for providers who participate in the Medicaid program for low-income Americans.

Many doctors avoid seeing Medicaid recipients, saying the program pays too little. That can lead to delays and difficulties in getting care for millions of poor people.

Federal law requires Medicaid, which covers 70 million people, to provide the same access to care as that given to people with private insurance. But many doctors avoid seeing Medicaid recipients, saying the program pays too little. That can lead to delays and difficulties in getting care for millions of poor people.

In Armstrong vs. Exceptional Child Center, several providers for developmentally disabled Medicaid patients sued the state of Idaho after officials failed to increase Medicaid payments as required under a formula approved by the federal government.

An appellate court upheld a judgment in favor of the providers last year, noting that Idaho had conceded that it held rates flat since 2006 for “purely budgetary reasons.”

The issue before the high court is whether the U.S. Constitution gives providers the right to sue the state to increase their pay. And the court appeared split on that issue based on their remarks Tuesday. Continue reading

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Wellness programs at work are popular – but do they work?

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yoga-office-570By Julie Rovner
KHN

If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too.

But so far there’s no real evidence as to whether these plans work.

One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs all the way to requiring comprehensive health screenings.

The 2014 survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 98 percent of large employers and 73 percent of smaller employers offer at least one wellness program. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

What makes wellness plans so popular?

It really is part of their strategy to help employees be healthy, productive, and engaged,” says Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of large firms. “And it’s really part of their strategy to be successful companies.”

And there’s another reason wellness has gotten so pervasive, said health consultant Al Lewis. It’s a big industry. Continue reading

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US takes aim at company ‘wellness’ programs

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ScaleBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

Do it or else. Increasingly, that’s the approach taken by employers who are offering financial incentives for workers to take part in wellness programs that incorporate screenings that measure blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, among other things.

The controversial programs are under fire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit against Honeywell International in October charging, among other things, that the company’s wellness program isn’t voluntary.

In the wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.

It’s the third lawsuit filed by the EEOC in 2014 that takes aim at wellness programs and it highlights a lack of clarity in the standards these programs must meet in order to comply with both the 2010 health law and the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

Honeywell, based in Morristown, N.J., recently got a reprieve when a federal district court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the company from proceeding with its wellness program incentives next year.

But the issue is far from resolved, and the EEOC is continuing its investigations. Meanwhile, business leaders are criticizing the EEOC action, including a recent letter from the Business Roundtable to administration officials expressing “strong disappointment” in the agency’s actions.

In the Honeywell wellness program, employees and their spouses are asked to get blood drawn to test their cholesterol, glucose and nicotine use, as well as have their body mass index and blood pressure measured.

If an employee refuses, he’s subject to a $500 surcharge on health insurance and could lose up to $1,500 in Honeywell contributions to his health savings account.

He and his spouse are also each subject to a $1,000 tobacco surcharge. That means the worker and his spouse could face a combined $4,000 in potential financial penalties. Continue reading

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Nearly half of Americans over 65 need help with daily tasks

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Clinic elderly doctor nurse office couchBy Millie Dawson
Health Behavior News Service

Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older, totaling about 18 million people, require help with routine daily activities like bathing, handling medications or meals.

A new study in Milbank Quarterly reveals a growing need for improved services and support for older Americans, their spouses, their children and other “informal caregivers.”

While 51 percent of older Americans in the study reported no difficulty with routine tasks, “29 percent reported receiving help with taking care of themselves or getting around in the previous month,” said co-author Vicki A. Freedman, Ph.D., a research professor with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

“Another 20 percent reported that they had difficulty carrying out these activities on their own,” she said.

KEY POINTS

  • Nearly half of Americans age 65 and older require help with routine daily activities such as bathing, meals or taking medications.
  • Substantial numbers of older adults living outside of nursing homes experience adverse consequences from unmet care needs.
  • There is a growing need for improved community-based services and support for older Americans and their caregivers.

Continue reading

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Does selling your home affect eligibility for assisted living?

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Q. I’m a realtor who’s listing a client’s home. She is on Social Security and is moving into assisted-living housing. Will the proceeds from the sale of her home affect her eligibility for housing, which is based on her income?

A. This is an unusual question because assisted-living facilities typically do not have special eligibility criteria for low-income residents, experts say. Continue reading

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