The daily personal care needs of a child with cerebral palsy can be challenging. There are five basic categories of personal care needs:
- Personal hygiene, including bathing and oral care
- Dressing oneself
- Feeding oneself
- Using the restroom and/or keeping continence
- Transferring from lying down or sitting to standing
Often a parent or caregiver must help a child with cerebral palsy with one, two, or all these daily personal needs depending on the severity of their condition and age.
How to Help Children With Cerebral Palsy Face Everyday Challenges
Here are some facts and tips to help children through daily personal care needs.
One-third of children with cerebral palsy are unable to walk. Others can walk using assistive devices. It can be frustrating for children with cerebral palsy who must rely on others to carry them from bed to chair. As children get older, carrying them becomes impractical and unsafe. It also keeps them from becoming more independent.
Fortunately, there are wheelchairs and scooters that are specially designed for children to match their height, weight, posture, and support needs with maximum comfort. Depending on the child, parents can choose from several mobility options such as:
- Manual or electric powered wheelchairs
- Standing wheelchairs
- Electric scooters
Sometimes children prefer scooters because it gives them more freedom and independence than when using a wheelchair.
Eating and Drinking Issues
Cerebral palsy can affect children’s’ ability to chew and swallow food. Others may thrust out their tongue while eating. It can be difficult for children to feed themselves because they may lack fine motor skills to hold a fork or cup. About one in 15 children with cerebral palsy must be fed with a feeding tube.
Some of the ways to help a child eat and drink independently include:
- Using larger utensils that are easier to grasp
- Providing two-handled drinking cups
Bathroom and Hygiene Issues
About 25% of children with cerebral palsy have bladder control issues in the form of incontinence (unable to control urination). Others have problems with constipation due to lack of mobility. One-third of children with cerebral palsy have hip and/or spine displacement, which makes using a toilet and bathing difficult.
There are assistive devices and adaptations that can make toilet and bathing issues easier. These include:
- Adaptive toilet seat with grip bars
- Non-skid surfaces
- Shower seat with handheld nozzle
- Safety railing or “crash bar” in the shower or bath
- Electric toothbrushes and plastic molded flossers
Children with cerebral palsy may not have the fine motor skills to manipulate snaps, hooks, or buttons. Children who have intellectual impairments may not be able to select proper clothing for the weather or social situation.
Some of the ways that parents and caregivers can make getting dressed easier include:
- Interactive toys that teach children how to button, snap, and zip.
- Selecting clothes that are easy to put on and take off, such as a cardigan instead of a pullover sweater.
- Medical supply stores have devices for people with motor function impairments that make getting dressed easier.
- Letting children pick out their own clothes (with gentle guidance as necessary) helps make them more likely to be patient about learning to get dressed.
A good day can depend on getting a good night’s sleep, but this can be challenging for a child with cerebral palsy. About one-fifth of children with cerebral palsy have a sleep disorder caused by muscle spasms, pain, and epilepsy.
Some of the ways that children can get a better night’s rest include:
- Keeping rooms dark or dimly lit at a comfortable temperature.
- Avoiding soda, caffeine, and sugary treats three hours before bedtime.
- Limiting naps to 15 or 20 minutes at the most.
Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
The daily personal care needs of a child with cerebral palsy can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining. Motorized scooters and other adaptive devices are expensive, and it is likely that one parent will need to stay at home or hire a caregiver, depending on your child’s condition and age.
That is why you should speak with a birth injury lawyer if your child’s condition was caused by a preventable birth injury. A birth injury lawyer in your state knows the statute of limitations and liability laws to help seek compensation for lifecare costs, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.