Understanding Autism and What is Covered Under the Spectrum Umbrella

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

Autism Speaks defines autism, also referred to as autism spectrum disorder, as a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated one in 68 children in the United States has autism and considers autism a national public health crisis. Furthermore, approximately four out of five individuals with autism are male. With these dramatic numbers, more families than ever are affected by autism, and evidence shows that an early intervention has positive results.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are diagnosed with autism. When serving individuals with autism, one of our main goals is to help treat the mental health condition that is often underlying such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Often times individuals who have a neurodevelopmental disorder tend to be “overlooked” by mental health professionals, thus the underlying mental health condition is missed and not treated at all. In turn, this becomes an important focus for the HealthStar Home Health mental health team of professionals. Our team is committed to helping these individuals reach their full capacity and achieve the highest level of independence while simultaneously improving their quality of life.

Research shows there is not just one autism but many types, each triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The term spectrum in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of strengths and challenges each individual with autism lives with.

Typically, the symptoms begin to appear around the ages of 2 and 3 years, although sometimes even earlier. If your child exhibits symptoms of autism, it may be a good idea to follow up with further evaluation, but keep in mind that children without autism may also show some of the risk factors. The following are possible red flags to watch for in the development of babies and toddlers:

  • Limited eye contact
  • Lack of smiles or joyful expressions
  • Lack of nonverbal communication, including gestures such as reaching or pointing
  • No babbling or use of words
  • No response to name

As autism awareness has grown, many older children and even adults have been diagnosed. Similar risk factors may suggest autism at any age:

  • Struggles with emotions and other people’s feelings
  • Avoids eye contact as well as social settings
  • Remains nonverbal
  • Is affected by changes to routine
  • Performs repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, as well as repeats words or phrases

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, at school, and in the community.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and challenging it can be to care for a loved one at home and also offer a variety of home health care services to help support your loved one to live a more independent and fulfilling life at home. To learn more about the various mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) visit our blog.

With cultural care values as the foundation, our caregivers are able to provide quality service, delivering it with increased awareness and perspective. As we serve our clients and our communities, we are motivated by our desire to bring services to everyone in need. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Mental Health and Depression

With the holiday season fast approaching, the first thing that comes to mind are the joys the holidays bring. Time with friends, family traditions and the wonders of the season all bring great joy to many. But for an estimated 16 million American adults that had at least one major depressive episode last year, the holidays are not so joyous. The added stress and expectations at this time of year can throw anyone into a funk, but when you also consider a variety of factors including the fact that there is less daylight causing a decrease in the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, it really opens up the doors for a flood of emotions.

According the the Mayo Clinic website, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression is more than just the blues or a rough patch in life. It is a serious mental health condition requiring treatment, a recovery plan and most of all, understanding and support from those around you.

If you or your senior loved one is feeling symptoms such as feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, or feelings of failure, worthlessness or guilt most of the day, nearly everyday, then it may be time to seek help.

Since many people think that it is a normal part of the aging process and a natural reaction to illness or social transition, depression often goes untreated in seniors. Symptoms to watch for might be vague complaints of pain, memory problems and can also be a side effect of commonly prescribed medications.

Depression may show itself in different ways with different age groups. Children and teenagers are experiencing life’s emotional ups and downs as a part of growing up, but for those with depression the downs are more severe. Children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk for depression, as well as someone who has experienced considerable stress or trauma.

Depression is a devastating and debilitating mental health disorder for the millions of Americans who suffer from it. With an early detection, diagnosis and treatment plan, many people can get better and have good control of their depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists several options for treatment plans on their website, here is a sampling:

  • Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications
  • Psychotherapy which includes cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy
  • Light therapy, using a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light and regulate their melatonin levels
  • Mind, body and spiritual approaches such as prayer, faith, and meditation

HealthStar Home Health offers support to families dealing with mental health disorders, whether it is an adult in the family, a senior loved one you are caring for, or children and teenagers, we have a program to help you. Our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) offers assistance and support to adults 18 years of age and older who have a qualifying mental illness and are eligible for medical assistance who want to improve their life. Our ARMHS program is not case management or traditional therapy, but instead is mental health services aimed at teaching you skills for managing your mental health symptoms and can get you through the busy, unpredictable holiday season.

We also offer mental health services to children through our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) which features cultural sensitivity and empathy to the underserved people in our communities and regions.

Don’t let the Minnesota winter or upcoming holiday season get you down. If you need support, get it! Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. If we all do our part to help remove the stigma associated with depression and mental health illnesses, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily. Spending quality time with family, friends and being active in your community is helpful in staying healthy, but sometimes you need a little more support. Contact HealthStar Home Health directly by calling 612-871-3700 and ask for a professional in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) department or the Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) department.

Facts about ADHD

A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) in the United States have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as of 2011. In this same survey, parents were asked whether their child received an ADHD diagnosis from a health care provider and the results show that:

  • Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • The average age of ADHD diagnosis was 7 years old, but children reported by their parents as having more severe ADHD were diagnosed at an earlier age.
  • The rates are on the rise with ADHD diagnosis increasing an average of 3% per year from 1997-2006 and an average increase of 5% per year from 2003-2011.
  • The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis has increased from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 to 11.0% in 2011.

Several reliable sources, including healthline.com, state that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common childhood disorders and as you can see from the information from the CDC, it continues to be on the rise. Our HealthStar Home Health caregivers recognize this rise in diagnosis and offer services to help the families and children with ADHD through our Mental Health and Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports programs (CTSS). The condition has been known as attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in the past, though ADHD is now the preferred term as it describes both of the primary features of this condition: inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior.

So what exactly is ADHD and how do you know if your child may have this condition?

The Mayo Clinic defines Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three different types or categories of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder the individual may fall under:

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is difficult for the individual to organize or complete a task, pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or a conversation. This person is also easily distracted and forgets details of daily routines.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: This person will fidget and talk a lot. It is very hard to sit still for long periods of time, even for a meal or to complete homework. Younger children may constantly run, jump or climb and often feels restless and struggles with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive will interrupt others often, grab things from people, or speak out of turn and at inappropriate times. More accidents or injuries may occur with an impulsive person also.

Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving during the early childhood years. However, children with ADHD typically do not grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue and can cause difficulty at school, at home, work, or with friends.

A child with ADHD will show some or all of the following symptoms, even as early as 2-3 years of age:

  • Frequently daydreaming
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Often has trouble following through with instructions or listening
  • Unable to organize tasks or activities
  • Forgetful and often loses items such as books, pencils or toys
  • Easily distracted
  • Struggles to complete homework, chores or other tasks
  • Often fidgets or squirms
  • Excessively talkative and frequently interrupts or intrudes on others’ conversations or activities
  • Difficulty waiting his/her turn and is often impatient

If you are concerned and your child is showing these symptoms, discuss it with your family doctor. It is important to start with a medical evaluation first to rule out other possible causes of your child’s troubles. There may also be help available thru local Twin Cities public services and the Minnesota public school system in your area.

Since many healthy young children are inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive and it is normal for preschoolers to have a short attention span, it may be difficult to pick up on these symptoms early in their development. It also may be difficult to know the difference between a naturally energetic child and hyperactivity for example, and you don’t want to classify a child as having ADHD just because they are different from their siblings or other friends. It is important to get a doctor involved if you are concerned. In most cases ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. For preschoolers (4-5 years of age), behavioral therapy is the recommended first-line of treatment.

HealthStar Home Health invites you to contact us for more information on the mental health services we offer to children and adults in Minnesota. Call us at 651-633-7300 to learn more.

Mental Health – How Can We Remove The Stigma?

The numbers are staggering. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in every 5 adults in America live with a mental health condition. Approximately 13.6 million adults in America live with a serious mental illness, and one-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24. Recently, Yahoo News reported a study from 2014 by the American College Health Association finding there is an epidemic of depression and anxiety among college students. Almost 30% of college students reported feeling depressed at some point over the past year and 54% of students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety.

For those who live with mental illnesses, their conditions have been kept secret and often go untreated for fear of embarrassment. There is a stigma associated with mental illness that is furthered when one takes medication to treat the illness. Whether it is depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or another form of mental illness, it can be debilitating and should not go untreated. Help those suffering by learning what a mental illness is, the causes, and what you can do to ease the stigma surrounding this.

HealthStar posed this question on Facebook: “What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about mental illness?” Here are some of the top answers from our followers:

  • that it affects everyone differently and it comes in all forms and begins at any age
  • people don’t realize it can be treated
  • mentally ill people are potentially violent
  • society’s lack of information and education on mental illnesses cause the stigma to grow
  • talking about mental illness and being available to listen goes a long way – remove the awkward silence

“Make it OK” is a local campaign created to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Their mission is to get people to stop the silence, share stories, and dispel the myths surrounding mental illness. The people behind makeitok.org are changing the hearts and minds about the misconceptions of mental illness by encouraging open conversations and education on the topic, along with encouraging people to seek support when needed. Treatments for mental illnesses are available. The more everyone knows about mental illness, the more understanding and supportive we, as a society, can be.

The Make it OK website offers good, basic, information like what a mental illness is and is not, and what a mental illness can be caused by. They also offer great tips for talking to someone who struggles with mental illness. If a loved-one has told you they are suffering, ask questions, show concern, and most importantly, listen. Mental illnesses are treatable health conditions but people are still afraid to talk about it due to shame, misunderstanding and negativity, amongst other reasons. Help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment by learning, listening and keeping the conversation moving.

At HealthStar Home Health, we recognize the alarming numbers of adolescent and young adult depression and offer Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) that focuses on cultural sensitivity and we provide these services with empathy to the underserved people in the communities and regions we serve. Some of the services we offer through this program are:

  • Individual, family and group psychotherapy
  • Specialized skills training
  • Crisis assistance
  • Behavioral aide services

For the adult years, we offer services through our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. The clients we support are dealing with these and other issues and disorders:

  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Agoraphobia

HealthStar looks at how the individual’s mental illness affects their functioning in various aspects of their lives. They may have depressive symptoms that interfere with independent living, self-care, school, housing and even transportation. The services we provide are community based. This allows our caregivers to go out into the community and meet the individual where they are so they can be as independent and functional as possible within their communities. HealthStar strives to remove the stigma by teaching those living with mental illnesses and their family members a variety of skills that can help with independent living and social situations.

Getting educated and helping to raise awareness of mental health conditions can break down obstacles and improve the recovery for the millions of Americans who suffer from a mental illness. If we join together as a society, people living with mental illnesses will be treated with respect and acceptance.