Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for medical conditions that result from disrupted development or damage to an area of the brain that is responsible for posture and muscle movement. The severity can vary from mild problems with muscle control to complete inability to walk, difficulty speaking, and intellectual disability. The medical challenges of cerebral palsy are well documented. It is also understood that cerebral palsy affects the entire family. However, the economic impact of the condition is often overlooked.
Financial Challenges of Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy
There are a number of reasons why raising a child with CP is financially challenging:
- It is a chronic, long-term condition. Children with CP typically require long-term supportive care for the rest of their lives.
- Cerebral palsy is often associated with coexisting medical conditions such as hearing impairment, vision loss, seizures, and cognitive challenges, all of which must be diagnosed and managed.
- In addition to ongoing medical care, children with CP require developmental assistance, special education services, and assisted living as adults.
- Occupational limitations prevent people with cerebral palsy from earning sufficiently to support themselves financially.
How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child with Cerebral Palsy?
For families raising children with cerebral palsy, the answer may come as a surprise. A CDC report estimated that the direct and indirect costs of cerebral palsy to the nation are more than 11 billion dollars ($11,000,000,000) every year. Here’s how those costs are broken down:
- 80% are Indirect: Approximately 80 percent of these costs are indirect costs on account of lost productivity and limitations in the type of work people with CP can do.
- 20% are Direct: The remaining 20 percent are direct medical and non-medical costs related to physician visits, medications, assistive devices, inpatient stays, and rehabilitation (direct costs) as well as automobile and home modifications, special education, and developmental assistance (indirect costs).
The same CDC report also estimated that the average lifetime cost for a person with cerebral palsy is more than $900,000 including the indirect costs, direct medical costs, and direct non-medical costs mentioned above. In addition, it should be noted that family members who care for children with cerebral palsy may suffer lost wages from time taken off work. Families may also have to bear the expenses for some treatments and ER visits out-of-pocket.
The cost of raising a child with cerebral palsy varies depending on the severity of the condition and the reimbursement practices of the family’s insurance company. It is noteworthy that the above estimates are based on the 2003 dollar. Today, the cost is likely greater on account of inflation. Finally, it should be noted that this estimate excludes any compensation for the pain and suffering endured by the child and family.
Financial Assistance for Children with Cerebral Palsy
The most obvious safeguard against medical expenses related to cerebral palsy is health insurance. In addition, families of children with CP can seek financial assistance from:
- Government programs that offer tax credits, affordable healthcare, nutritional supplements, etc.
- Charity organizations that offer equipment, information, support, counseling, advocacy, etc.
- Community organizations that offer child welfare, childcare, etc.
Although the costs are significant, the financial impact of cerebral palsy is not insurmountable. For families caring for a child with cerebral palsy, perhaps what is most important is financial planning to secure the child’s future.