Health Buzz: Mentally Ill in Nursing Homes and Other Health News

Gardasil vaccine and paralysis—CDC looks for a link; the vegetable garden at the Obama White House.

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Nursing Homes Increasingly House Mentally Ill Alongside Elderly

Nursing homes are increasingly housing young and middle-aged residents with mental illness, and in some cases, that leads to violence, the Associated Press reports. Younger residents with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder are living in the same homes as senior citizens. There were nearly 125,000 mentally ill young and middle-aged adults living in nursing homes in the United States last year, according to the AP; there were 89,000 people with mental illness living in nursing homes in 2002. Among the factors driving the increase: not enough beds in hospital psychiatric units and the shuttering of state mental institutions. Nursing homes also have extra beds because Americans of today's older generation are healthier than the prior generation and more likely to remain in their own homes. No one tracks killings or serious assaults by mentally ill nursing home residents against the elderly, but the AP describes several tragic cases.

U.S. News provides a list of America's Best Nursing Homes. Included in our package is an honor roll that lists homes at the very top of the heap and advice and tips to help those grappling with where to house a loved one. Recommended steps include determining whether it is truly time to move Dad or Mom to a nursing home, whittling down the roster of available nursing homes to a handful of decent prospects, visiting the homes that made the cut, and regularly following up to make sure that the choice was a good one. We also offer valuable information about paying for care, a close look at homes with a particularly bad track record, and a daughter's poignant story of her family's struggle to find humane care for her Alzheimer's-affected father.

CDC Takes Closer Look at Gardasil and Paralysis

Phil Tetlock and Barbara Mellers were in a race against time to save their 15-year-old daughter, Jenny, who died this month after she developed a degenerative muscle disease nearly two years ago, soon after being vaccinated against the cervical-cancer-causing HPV. Jenny's parents have been trying to determine if the human papillomavirus vaccine called Gardasil caused their daughter's illness, which was most likely a juvenile form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Jenny's parents have also connected with two other sets of parents whose daughters developed what appears to be ALS after being injected with Gardasil. Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, maintains that its vaccine is extremely safe and points out that it could potentially save women from dying of cervical cancer.

Scientists from the Food and Drug Administration met recently with Jenny's neurologists to discuss whether it's scientifically plausible for a vaccine to trigger ALS. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to scour its adverse-event database, called VAERS, to see whether different vaccinations have led to reports of ALS or other severe neurological complications.

While the cause of Jenny's illness is not fully understood, her case did not go unnoticed by the media. Read about one parent's dilemma over what to do about the HPV vaccine.

Easy-Grow Veggies for Your Kids' Obama White House Garden

Michelle Obama just became the hero of parent-gardeners across America by spading up a corner of the White House South Lawn and planting lettuce, chard, and kale. She's not alone; seed companies across the nation say they're swamped with orders from first-time gardeners eager to grow their own, Nancy Shute reports. And why not? Homegrown veggies are cheaper, they're local, they can be organic, and they are less likely to have food-safety issues. The first lady also pointed out that making a family effort to raise vegetables emphasizes the importance of healthful eating at a time when childhood obesity is a national epidemic. Plus, homegrown veggies are way yummier. U.S. News sought out expert advice on backyard vegetables that kids will love planting and eating. Try your hand at these 10 easy-grow veggies.

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