Middle Adulthood (31-64)

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Middle age is often considered a time of stability and personal and social growth. Adults in this phase may have the responsibility of taking care of an elderly adult and children. There may be a need to balance work and relationships or reassess life’s priorities. Many call this time of reassessment a mid-life crisis. There are notable changes in physical, social/emotional, and cognitive skills during the midlife period. Midlife is a pivotal period that includes a focus on balancing gains and losses, linking earlier and later life periods, and bridging generations.



Let’s face it during the middle age years our bodies begin to change and show the aging process.
  • Height decreases one to two inches due to bone density and bone loss in the vertebrae.
  • Weight may change due to decrease in muscle tone.
  • Joint stiffness and difficulty moving is due to progressive loss of bone.
  • Muscle strength and stamina begin to decline.
  • Hair begins to turn gray and thins and wrinkles begin to appear
  • Chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes may develop, especially if a healthy diet and exercise have not been a routine part of life. These chronic diseases are the main cause of death during the second half of middle age adults. Cancer is the second leading cause of death during middle age especially in the first half of middle age.
  • Vision changes include, difficulty adapting to darkness, far-sightedness, or the need for reading glasses, a decline in color vision, glaucoma and “floaters” or dark specks begin.
  • Hearing gradually declines.
  • During menopause, women may experience hot flashes, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations and achy joints.
  • For men, andropause occurs during the late middle age. The most common physical change is enlargement of the prostate gland. Symptoms are problems with urination such as difficulty starting to urinate and frequent need to urinate during the night.
Some people with disabilities may show signs of premature aging as they mature into their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The need for rehabilitation and therapy services, such as physical therapy, may increase as mobility issues and decrease in muscle strength begin to present themselves.


Social and emotional functioning is influenced by work and interpersonal relationships. Typically meaning is found in work and family life. During the middle-aged years adults may strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them, such as raising a family, mentoring others, or succeeding at work. Positive relationships with significant others, good health, and a sense of control will contribute to a state of well-being, being productive and satisfaction with life. A lack of positive and meaningful relationships can result in social isolation or loneliness. Characteristics of social isolation and loneliness may include being self-centered, failing to get involved with others, not taking an interest in productivity and self-improvement.


Cognitive functioning stabilizes around the mid-thirties. Processing speed, problem solving, and the ability to divide attention begins to slow down during middle age; but the skills needed to solve real-world problems or practical problem-solving increases. Those who continuously engage in mentally and physically stimulating activities have less cognitive decline during the older adult years. It is natural for cognitive abilities, such as thinking speed, judging, problem solving, reasoning, and working memory, to decline in every human brain as we age. This decline becomes even more important for individuals who have worked hard to lead an independent life without needing paid supports. A decline in cognitive abilities may also present an issue with safety in the community, as both individuals with disabilities and seniors are more susceptible to abuse and exploitation.


Community Inclusion

Independent Living:

Independent living is often thought of as being responsible for living arrangements, employment, transportation, and recreational activities. But independent living is so much more. For a person with a disability, independent living is about having the opportunity to make decisions that affect one’s life, the ability to choose one’s own activities, and most importantly having the freedom to fail and learn from one’s mistakes in the same manner as those without disabilities. Many with disabilities face barriers that take away or limit their choices. These barriers may be obvious like the lack of an entrance ramp or automated door, lack of sign language interpreters, captioning, or braille materials. Barriers can also be in the form of misunderstandings, low expectations, and prejudices about the disability. These barriers limit the person with a disability to a life of dependency and ow personal satisfaction. Independent living means being self-determined and having every opportunity to be as self-sufficient as possible. Many families struggle with the balance of empowering their loved one to live the lives they want to live while also ensuring their safety. It is challenging to find supports and services in the community to keep adults in their own homes or in an apartment in the community and the idea of a fall or stranger taking advantage of their loved one is frightening. There are 5 million citizens with an intellectual or developmental disability in the US, and only 10% have access to supports to live outside of their family home. CENTERS FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING: National, state, and local resources are available to assist individuals looking to live in their community and access the supports they need. The Administration for Community Living offers independent living programs that work to support community living and independence for people with disabilities across the nation based on the belief that all people can live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. These programs provide tools, resources, and supports for integrating people with disabilities fully into their communities to promote equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect. To find out more on these programs Click Here. Centers for Independent Living (CIL) are community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization. Centers for Independent Living provide:
  • Peer Support
  • Information and Referral
  • Individual and Systems Advocacy
  • Independent Living Skills Training
  • Transition
Palm Beach County’s Center is called Coalition for Independent Living Options. They provide supports to people with disabilities through advocacy, training and education in areas such as benefits, education, after school and summer programs, life skills, and crime victim protection and legal support. For more information about the Coalition for Independent Living Options, Inc. serving Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, Click Here. ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY: For individuals living on their own or looking to become independent, Assistive Technology has become user friendly and affordable, with a focus on universal design for all users, not just those with disabilities. States receive federal funding to support the State Grant for Assistive Technology Program, making assistive technology devices and services more available and accessible to individuals with disabilities and their families. “Assistive Technology includes low-tech items like a reacher or magnifying glass or high-tech equipment like tablet apps, or systems that allow you to control your computer with your eyes.” Florida’s Assistive Technology Program.” Florida’s Assistive Technology Program works with multiple organizations to help individuals find funding for the purchase of Assistive Technology, assist with demonstrations and trialing devices as part of a lending library, and offers trainings for individuals with disabilities. For more information about FAAST, Inc. Click Here.

Housing Options for Adults with Special Needs

Living with Parents or Other Family Members:

Many families choose to have the family member with special needs to continue living at home with the parents. This allows for the person to be surrounded by caregivers who have experience with the specific needs of the disability. It may be less stressful to continue living at home but living with one’s parents may not always be best for continued development of independent living skills. There may be limited social interaction to meet others when surrounded by the same family members. Additionally, the family needs to consider what will happen when the needs of the person with a disability may be greater than what an aging parent can handle. Will the person with special needs have a place to live or be able to emotionally handle the possibility of an abrupt transition to other housing when the aging parent passes away or is no longer able to care for the person with a disability?

Section 8 Housing:

The Section 8 Housing Program provides vouchers for people with low income to obtain housing in the community. Many people with disabilities whose sole source of income is through Social Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may qualify for Section 8 housing. It usually takes years of waiting to get a Section 8 voucher and rentals in the community the person with a disability wants to live may be limited. This housing option is not appropriate for people with more complicated needs who cannot live on their own without assistance.

Group Homes:

Group homes provide a supportive environment for several other people with special needs live together. These homes are usually staffed with counselors who help the residents live on their own. Group homes come in many varieties and can be paid for through private pay or state programs for people with disabilities.

Supported Housing:

Supported housing options may include having a roommate or living in an apartment complex with other people with special needs. This housing option may provide onsite supports or check-in supports.

Special Needs Trust Ownership of a Home/Rental Payment:

Special needs trusts can own homes or pay the rent in a private apartment for their beneficiaries. The trust can also pay for services to help the beneficiary live independently. Having home ownership for the person with special needs in a special needs trust protects the home from the beneficiary’s creditors. A financial or legal expert in special needs planning is needed. To find more information about special needs planners Click Here. For a special needs attorney Click Here.

Board and Care Homes:

Board and Care homes are often pre-existing single-family homes that have been modified for the needs and safety for older adults. These homes provide a home-like environment for two to nine non-related residents. They may offer both private and semi-private bedrooms with the rest of the house being shared. Live-in caregivers provide services and care, with some specializing in very individualized care. These facilities should always be licensed by the state. Costs can range from $2500 to $7000 per month.

Assisted Living Facilities:

In an assisted living community, the residents live in their own apartment within a building or complex of buildings. The resident can cook in their apartment or eat in a dining hall. The resident can receive assistance with bathing, cleaning and sometimes administration of medicines.

Skilled Nursing Facility:

Skilled nursing facilities provide around the clock medical care and constant supervision. Skilled nursing facilities are expensive, often costing more than $10,000 a month. In many cases, an individual with severe special needs and minimal assets may qualify for Medicaid coverage for the care in a skilled nursing home facility. “Despite the ever-increasing waitlists, inadequate housing options, and lack of lifelong opportunities, there is a movement of sustainable, high quality, residential choices emerging. Hundreds of everyday people across the country are taking the future into their own hands and creating amazing futures for adults with autism and others with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).” Madison House Autism Foundation The Madison House Autism Foundation has created a platform for sharing housing options and resources for adults with audism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities. Their vision is to become the largest database of user-generated resources and residential opportunities while fostering a supportive and encouraging online community. For more information about the Autism Housing Network, a project of the Madison House Autism Foundation, Click Here.


If new to disability services the first thing that should be done is applying for benefits through Social Security, Agency for Person’s with Disabilities, and Vocational Rehabilitation. These agencies can help in providing the supports to people with disabilities. Remember, these agencies will not send an application to you. The person with a disability must self-advocate and apply to see if they are eligible for the services. The learn More section describes each agencies services and eligibility criteria. Social Security has policies, resources, and support in place to help, but many people don’t know about them. Families looking to relocate to Palm Beach County from another state need to become familiar with state agency services in Florida before making a move. Availability of funding differs from state to state, and some individuals receiving supports may not have access to those same services once they relocate. This is especially true for those receiving supports from the Medicaid waiver. For more information about The Florida Medicaid waiver program and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Click Here for the Learn More section titled, Agency Supports: Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The brochure, What You Need to Know About Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) When You Turn 18, describes key resources and information for people receiving SSI. It explains the benefit re-determination at age 18 and special SSI work incentives for people participating in special education, Vocational Rehabilitation, or working while attending school. It also includes information on Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts; health programs; and support from other places, such as American Job Centers. Social Security’s Red Book serves as a general reference source about the employment-related provisions of the Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income Programs for educators, advocates, rehabilitation professionals, and counselors who serve people with disabilities. A new section has been added consolidating information on programs and resources for young people to help with the transition from school to adulthood. Click Here for Red Book. Vocational Rehabilitation helps people with disabilities obtain and maintain employment. Services for Vocational Rehabilitation are explained in the Learn More section. Click Here. Middle aged adults sometimes seek change in employment. Some may be comfortable and feel secure in a job while others may be eager to make a career transition or advance in a career. Young adults with disabilities who have completed school often access Vocational Rehabilitation to obtain and maintain employment. Older adults who have been successfully employed with the support of Vocational Rehabilitation services through a community provider may find it challenging to access additional services needed to change or advance a career. CareerSource Florida is the statewide workforce development board. There are 24 CareerSource Florida local offices throughout the state to offer resources to assist individuals, with or without a disability, with job searches, career development and training. CareerSource Palm Beach county offers career exploration and assessment tools to job seekers, such as O*NET Career Exploration Tools by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. For more information about O*NET Click Here. The RIASEC interest profiler is a tool that generates an occupational recommendation by gauging level of engagement with work activities linked to primary interest areas. To access the RIASEC assessment Click Here. Other options to consider when looking for work may include volunteering. There are many opportunities in our community to volunteer. It may be tutoring, being a foster grandparent, guardian ad litem, or helping nonprofits. To find volunteer opportunities check with 211  Click Here  or for general volunteer opportunities with Palm Beach County, Click Here.


Being able to get around the community is important for socialization. Often transportation leads to continued social participation. Social activities improves both physical and mental health.  Palm Beach County has many resources for transportation: Palm Tran, Palm Tran connections, Brightline, TriRail and other ride share services. If the person with disability has never used public transportation, Palm Tran provides travel training to help people with disabilities learn how to navigate the fixed route system.   Palm Tran also provides door to door service for those with significant disabilities. Many of Palm Beach’s small towns and special needs communities offer transportation for scheduled community outings, shopping, and medical appointments. Click Here for more information from the Learn More section.

Other Resource Pages:

Easterseals.com: For other transportation resources Click Here.

Community Involvement:

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation offers over 8,000 acres of parkland along with sports, fitness, environmental, and cultural opportunities. Individuals are encouraged to participate in general recreation classes offered and can request reasonable accommodations.
Rain or shine, there are activities for everyone offered in Palm Beach County. Click Here for the Palm Beach Recreation website. According to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, recreational therapy, or therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the needs of individuals with disabling conditions as a mean to psychological and physical health, recovery, and well-being. Activities may include arts, working with animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings. Participation in these activities can reduce depression, stress, anxiety, while increasing motor functions, self-determination, and happiness. The Club Managers Association of America Therapeutic Recreation Complex in Lake Worth offers adaptive recreation programs, training and skill development, resource and referral services, along with community awareness and education. For more information about Therapeutic Recreation programs, Click Here. Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition for adults of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Palm Beach County offers 15 competitive sports and serves 2,887 athletes and 466 volunteers. To learn more about programs and volunteer opportunities Click Here. Meetup is an online platform for finding and building local communities. People use meetup to meet new people, learn new things, find support, get out of their comfort zones and pursue areas of interest together. You can find an existing group in your county or create a new group to find people that share your interests. Click Here for the meetup.com site to find events or groups in your local area.

Questions to Ask Myself

  • If my parents are helping me with finances, transportation, housing or other activities, do I have other people in my life that can help me when my parents are no longer living?
  • If my siblings are helping me, do I need to have a conversation with to express my goals and preferences?
  • Do I want to stay in the same job, or try something new?
  • Are there new hobbies or groups I’d like to try?
  • Do I need to change my lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise, now that I am older?
  • If I have to move, do I know how to find the supports to start my life in a new place?
  • Do I have access to healthcare so that I can keep up with routine health checks important for my age group?
  • As friends and family grow older and the person with special needs begin to lose loved ones, do they have access to a counselor or confident to manage their grief?
  • Does the person with special needs want to live in a community with people similar in age, offering activities and services within walking distance?

Legal and Financial:


Do you have finances set aside to help with independent or assisted living care? Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Trusts accounts allow you as the caregiver, or as person with a disability to save money for care after the death of the main caregiver.


Do you have a will and medical directives completed for both the caregiver and the person with a disability? Once a person becomes a legal adult, they hold responsibility for their actions, health care, and privacy. See also the section below For the Caregiver for additional considerations.

Questions to Ask Myself

  • Who is partnering with my loved one in supported decision making?
  • What is the distribution plan for my special needs trust to supplement the quality of life for my family member with special needs?
  • Does my family member with disabilities need to file taxes? Who will assist?
  • Do I understand how my rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with providers, agencies, and other support providers?
  • Do I have the support people in place to help my loved one with finances?
  • Does the income from employment of the person with disabilities exceed benefits limits?


Through the American Disabilities Act Section 504, colleges, technical schools or vocational schools must provide reasonable accommodations to those who disclose a documented disability. Each institution of higher education has a designated office for disability services, or student services. Details are provided in the Learn More section on how to access these services. Click Here for the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and 504. The Postsecondary Education, Disability Services in High Education sections provide answers to questions you may have.

Postsecondary Education:

Did you know there are college training programs across Florida for students with Intellectual disabilities? In addition, Florida legislation has created a scholarship opportunity for students to attend! Click Here for the website for Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities to learn more. There is much to consider when navigating transition from high school to a post-secondary program. There is determining what type of program or major, the cost, the location and class sizes and most importantly how to continue receiving the accommodations needed to be successful in the coursework. If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a student with disabilities in post-secondary education the Office of Civil Rights has an informational webpage discussing frequently asked questions about preparing for post-secondary education, Click Here.

Family Resources | Think College:

ThinkCollege.net provides a wealth of information for families and educators on the college options for students with intellectual disabilities. If you are looking for some ideas on IEP goals and objectives to help teen prepare to go to college, they have created a table with suggested IEP goals, Click Here. When selecting a college look at the programs and majors to see if the college offers the training needed to start the career of interest. Thinkcollege provides a list of colleges throughout the United States that offer programs for students with intellectual disabilities. Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities provides in-depth descriptions of postsecondary programs in Florida that serve students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Click Here for their website. There are also many college scams offering an easy way to get a degree. Remember the rule, if it looks too good to be true or if it sounds way to easy, then it’s a scam. To understand more about college scams, Click Here to read the Federal Trade Commission’s article, College Degree Scams. Check with your high school guidance office for more information on legitimate colleges and trade schools and the programs they offer. Other Lifelong Learning Opportunities: Our community offers a wide variety of resources to continue learning academic, vocational, hobbies and fitness skills. See the resources in the Lifelong Learning section (hyperlink) Public Libraries and Community Education Centers Many of the public libraries in our community will offer classes to their community members. Additionally, the many public schools are Community Education sites. Each semester, the School District of Palm Beach County advertises online and in a mailed advertisement its course schedule. Click Here for more information. MasterClass is a streaming platform featuring classes taught by over 80 celebrities and industry leaders. Each class has about 20 videos at about 10 minutes each across categories such as business, photography, cooking, writing, acting, or sports. To see courses offered Click Here.
Coursera offers courses leading to degrees, industry certifications or professional development, offered by universities and companies in subjects such as business, computer science, data science, and language learning. Courses feature self-paced hands-on projects and quizzes. For more information about courses Click Here.

Questions to ask yourself about education and lifelong learning:

  • Are there skills or interests the adult would like to explore or develop?
  • Does the adult with disabilities express what they want to do after completing high school?
  • Are there ways to continue learning at work, at volunteer jobs, at local schools?
  • Does the adult with disabilities know how to ask for accommodations at work and school?

Healthy Living:

The life expectancy of most persons with developmental disabilities now approaches that of the general population. For example, the mean age of death for a person with an intellectual disability was 19 years in the 1930s and 66 years by the 1990s, and it continues to improve. The civil rights of persons with disabilities have also advanced as they have been fully integrated into mainstream society, including medical practices. Family physicians can help patients with developmental disabilities maximize their potential by presuming they have an ability to learn and using appropriate communication support tools. Physicians can also help by responding promptly to urgent medical problems, providing age-appropriate health maintenance, and assessing risk to prevent secondary complications. Click Here for the AAFP website. People with developmental disabilities are at higher risk to sexual abuse. Up to 83% of females and 32% of males with cognitive disabilities are sexually abused. Sadly only 3% of their attackers are convicted. To address these risks, research shows that comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraceptive services can help young people protect their health and well-being. In addition to helping young people choose healthier behaviors, the barriers to health equity must be dismantled (including poverty, lack of insurance, and disparities in education) and structural interventions that help allow all young people to build healthy lives should be built.

Personal Relationships:

A main part of adulthood is developing personal long-term relationships with another. There are many myths that people with disabilities are incapable of understanding sexuality. Sexuality is not about genitality or about having sex. It is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identity and roles, sexual orientation, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. People with disabilities are capable of having healthy sexual relationships. All people need the opportunity to learn and understand sex and relationships. Teaching must be done in an appropriate manner. Understanding the different levels of friendships, sexuality and sexual health increases personal safety and helps to prevent exploitation. The National Council for Independent Living developed videos to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn about sexuality. Topics include clarifying what is sex, gender, understanding healthy relationships, protection from sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and how pregnancy happens.
Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) book Sexuality across the Lifespan for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities provides specific topics to address at different ages. It also provides resources for parents/caregivers and for educators. Sexuality across the Lifespan for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities – is an instructional guide for Parents/Caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities. Sexuality across the Lifespan for Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities – An instructional guide for Parents/Caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities. To download the 2011 English version Click Here. To download the Spanish version Click Here. To order the English version online Click Here. Click Here for Sexuality and Developmental Disability: A Guide for Parents Publication Date: 2009.


Safety is not only about protecting your personal well-being but also about protecting your personal information. Media Safety: Life is online. Whether you live it using a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop, it’s a good time to make computer security a habit. Because of exploitation of people with disabilities, it is important to have the skills and knowledge of personal safety, personal boundaries, when to say no, and knowing consequences of actions in all situations, including when on the internet. Find out more at OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government’s site to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.
Public Wi-Fi security: Using Public Wifi
Identity Theft:


It is astonishing how many scams are happening through social media. There are over 30 topics on different types of scams on the FTC website. Learn about recent scams and how to recognize the warning signs. Click Here to read the FTC’s most recent alerts or browse scams by topic. Requests for email updates on scams are available on this webpage. Help your teen to understand the difference between truths and scams.


Fitness and Nutrition:

It is important for the individuals in this age group to monitor their weight, be aware of proper nutrition and follow a healthy lifestyle. Muscle mass and weight may change dramatically in this age group if it is not monitored. It is easy to fall into the trap of snacking on foods that are not healthy and remaining in front of the television or computer or smartphone for hours at a time. There are various aps available that can be programmed to tell the individual that it is time to get up and walk around. Middle adulthood is a time of expanding personal and social involvement and responsibility. Combining physical activity with socialization such as group walks, supervised exercise in a gym or elsewhere with peers is a great way to promote and encourage physical fitness. Physical skills as well as balance may decline during this age group. Loss of balance may have serious consequences causing people to break bones. There are a variety of yoga classes available online or in person that can assist with building muscle mass and maintaining good balance. The advantage of doing an online class is that the individual can do at their own pace and set their own goals. The National Center for Health and Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) recommends discussing your physical activity programs with your physician before starting. Find out if there are any medication side-effects that may limit what exercises you do. Start slowly and build your strength. If possible, consult with a trained exercise professional that understands your disability.
  • Exercise and Fitness Fact Sheets describes various exercise and fitness techniques, modes, methods, adaptations, programming and related exercise equipment.
  • Disability/Conditions Fact Sheets describes various disabilities and health conditions as well as considerations for each related to exercise and physical activity.
  • NCHPAD 14 Weeks to Healthier You is a National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability based program. Those who register can access physical activity options and nutrition advice for people with disabilities – at no cost.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists many fitness resources for many disabilities. Click Here for their website. Move Your Own Way provides tools and tips to make it easier to get more active. Click Here for their website.
Workout from Home: Options for People with Disability and Chronic Health Conditions. Click Here for a YouTube Playlist.

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the person with a disability eat healthy meals?
  • Does the person with a disability stay as physically active as possible?
  • Does the person with a disability understand the health risks of smoking, drinking alcohol, and drug use?
  • Is there technology that can assist the person with a disability in monitoring their health and fitness independent of the caregiver?
  • Does the person with a disability qualify for Medicaid or Medicare coverage or Social Security benefits?
  • Does the person with a disability get regular physicals and routine exams? (blood pressure, prostate checks, gynecological exams, routine blood tests)
  • Does the person with a disability need support to help me with managing medications, talking to doctors and other medical/health decisions?
  • Does the person with a disability understand their disability or special healthcare needs and how it affects them?
  • Who else understands medical needs and information for the person with a disability?
  • Does the person with a disability practice safe sex? What type of birth control is right for the person with a disability?

Mental Health:

Mental illnesses are brain-based conditions which affect thinking, emotions and behaviors. One in five adults in America will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. Mental health problems may be related to one or a combination of stress, genetic factors, or chemical imbalances. Just like any other illness with proper care and treatment, many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder. Mental health conditions are treatable. Finding a support network to provide an opportunity for the person to talk to others, be listened to and offered ways to cope can help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Palm Beach County provides support, education and advocacy to empower persons with mental illness and their families. Click Here for their website. Common signs of mental illness in adults can include:
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (” lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
From Mental Health America: Click Here for more on mental health conditions and major topics in mental health.

For the Caregiver:

Siblings of an adult with a disability:

It is important for siblings of an adult with disabilities to have a detailed discussion with parents regarding future care of the disabled sibling. Siblings of disabled adults have their own family responsibilities, having this additional responsibility can be a tremendous burden. If there are multiple siblings, it is important to discuss this together. Adult siblings need to have an honest picture of what the responsibilities of caring for a disabled sibling look like before it becomes an emergency. It is equally important for the disabled individual to understand and have an opinion in the future planning. Siblings may find themselves in the difficult position of caring for both an elderly parent(s) and disabled sibling.


Determine income sources for sibling, speak with an elder care/special needs attorney or financial planner if possible. Is sibling able to handle own finances, banks offer various programs that can assist a 3rd party in controlling credit card and debit card spending, Able account etc. Who will be the designated financial overseer if the parent is no longer around? Would it be beneficial to engage a professional legal guardian/guardian advocate after the parent passing? Is there a representative payee for government benefits? Is there a life insurance policy? What are the terms of the parents will? Be certain it is written so as not to jeopardize any government benefits.


Where is sibling currently living, at parents’ home, own apartment? group housing? If there is a roommate situation is this truly in the best interest of the individual. Be certain to conduct a thorough background check before accepting a new roommate. If the sibling is to live in own home consider the responsibilities, who will be responsible for that home? Should some type of group housing be considered if it not currently being used? The need for housing supports increases as the individual ages.

Care Considerations:

Mental Health:

If the disabled individual has been living with parents’ whole life there are possibly no peers, no opportunity to socialize. It could be the individual’s only friends are the parents’ friends. This is also true if the individual has been provided with his/her own residence but no opportunities to socialize with peers. The lonely person is often vulnerable to on-line or in person scams. Computer use as well as credit card and bank accounts should be regulated or monitored. Socialization is a key to developing a well-adjusted and confident adult. During this adjustment period the disabled sibling may resent or not appreciate that a sibling has become “the boss of me”.

Questions to ask myself:

  • Is the current environment the best environment for my sibling?
  • Am I able to oversee the responsibilities of my sibling while still tending to my personal needs?
  • Should my sibling still be driving his/her car?
  • How can my sibling’s current life be enriched?


Autismhousingnetwork.org: Madison House Autism Foundation. Autism Housing Network. Click Here. Neighbours-international.com: Neighbours International is a non-profit that supports people with disabilities and their families in choosing and designing a life for themselves within their local towns and neighborhoods. Click Here. Consumerfinance.gov: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Managing someone else’s money: Click Here. Bestbuddies.org: Best Buddies International: Click Here. Specialolympics.org: Special Olympics: Click Here. Meetup.com: Meet-up website: Click Here. Pbcgov.org: Palm Beach County website: Click Here. Faast.org: FAAST: Florida’s Assistive Technology Program website. Click Here. Cilo.org: CILO: The Coalition for Independent Living Options website Click Here. Aarp.org: AARP: American Association of Retired Persons website Click Here. Masterclass.com: MasterClass: An online education portal. Click Here for their website. Prisms.org: Exploring Adult Residential Living. Click Here. Ocali.org: OCALI Lifespan Transitions Center
. Click Here.


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