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research in focus

Caring for a Family Member with Spinal Cord Injury Can Be Both Challenging and Rewarding

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage anywhere along the spinal cord, usually from an accident or other trauma. SCI can cause a loss of feeling and movement below the point of damage. As a result, people with SCI may need help with basic daily activities such as bladder and bowel care, dressing, and bathing, as well as more complex tasks like shopping and transportation. Often, a spouse or other close family member takes on most of this caregiving responsibility. Most past research has focused on the burdens and stresses of being a caregiver to a person with SCI.


A New Mobile Health System Can Help People with Spina Bifida Take Charge of Their Health

Spina bifida (SB) is the most common congenital condition leading to disability in the United States. People born with spina bifida have damage to their spinal nerves because their spine didn’t develop or close properly in the womb. They may have reduced bladder and bowel control and loss of feeling in their legs. As a result, they may be more likely to develop health problems like urinary tract infections or skin ulcers than people without SB.


Which health problems are most common for people aging with physical disabilities?

As the population ages, many people are growing older with physical disabilities they were either born with or acquired when they were younger, such as muscular dystrophy (MD), multiple sclerosis (MS), or spinal cord injury (SCI). In the general population, people have a higher risk of developing chronic health problems such as heart disease and cancer as they get older. Older adults with physical disabilities may have an even higher risk of health problems than their peers without disabilities for various reasons, including limited mobility and barriers to healthcare.


For People with Severe Burn Injuries, Cognitive and Communication Problems May Be Common

About half a million Americans are treated for burn-related injuries each year. A burn can result from exposure to a fire or contact with hot liquids, chemicals, or electricity. Although the burn injury itself is often treatable, burn injury survivors may have lasting functional challenges. These can include problems with cognition—thinking, remembering, or solving problems— due to the effects of inhaling smoke or toxic fumes, loss of oxygen, anesthetic use, or other medical complications. These cognitive problems can make communication difficult for a person with burn injury.


Can Social Media Help People with Serious Mental Illness Feel More Connected to Their Community?

People with serious mental illness (SMI) have conditions like depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder that can affect their ability to participate in their communities and build social relationships. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, allows people with and without disabilities to connect with friends and family, both locally and far away. Many people with SMI use social media to communicate with friends, find peer support from others with similar conditions, or receive health-related information.


A New Physical Therapy Program Improves Sitting and Play Skills for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common cause of movement disability in children. CP can result from brain damage before, during, or soon after birth, and it can be mild, moderate or severe. Children with CP often have trouble coordinating their body movements. As a result, they may be delayed in learning to sit without support. Independent sitting is an important milestone that can help children explore and play with objects more effectively and if not achieved, can delay development in other areas.


Getting out and getting active may be key to breathing easier after spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when the spinal cord is damaged, often from an accident or trauma. SCI can lead to a number of health challenges. Dyspnea, or frequent shortness of breath, is one challenge that can lower quality of life. According to some past studies, being physically active after a SCI may help prevent dyspnea and improve quality of life. In a recent NIDILRR-funded study, researchers looked at the connections between physical activity, dyspnea, and quality of life in people with SCI.


Community Conversations Can Bring Diverse Stakeholders Together to Build Consensus

People with disabilities and the professionals who support them have knowledge and experience that could be valuable to communities in addressing disability-related issues. However, when communities come together to work on these issues, some stakeholders may be left out of the discussion. A recent NIDILRR-funded study used a well-established community conversation format (World Café) as a way to bring more underrepresented voices into the discussion.


How Does Working Memory Capacity Impact Memory Improvement After Traumatic Brain Injury?

Each year, about 1.6 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI occurs when someone experiences brain damage after a head trauma, such as from a fall or a car accident. Memory problems are common, affecting more than half of people with TBI. People with TBI may have trouble learning and remembering new information, which can cause challenges in school, work, and other settings. Memory training exercises can help people with TBI improve memory. However, it would be helpful to know whether these interventions help some people with TBI more than others.



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