Severe illness, even transient, can cause great anxiety in children and their families. Chronic health problems last for more than 12 months and are severe enough to limit usual activities. Also Chronic health problems usually cause even more emotional distress than transient problems.
Examples of chronic health problems:
- Impaired hearing function or impaired sight
Asthma: Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses. It affects more than 6 million children in the United States. Asthma occurs more frequently in boys before puberty, and in girls after puberty. Asthma has become an increasingly common condition in recent decades. Doctors are not sure why. In the United States, more than 8.5% of children have been diagnosed with asthma, an increase of more than 100% in recent decades. The rate reaches 25 to 40% in some populations of children living in urban areas. Asthma is one of the main reasons for the hospitalization of children and is the chronic condition which causes the most absenteeism in children in elementary school.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease that affects the amount of sugar in the blood. There are many types of sugar. The white granules of table sugar are known as sucrose. Sucrose is naturally extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet. Another type of sugar, lactose, is found in milk. Sucrose is made up of two different simple sugars, glucose and fructose. Lactose is made up of two simple sugars, glucose and galactose. Sucrose and lactose must be broken down by the intestine into building blocks before they can be absorbed. Glucose is the main sugar used by the body for energy; during and after absorption, most sugars are therefore converted into glucose. When doctors talk about blood sugar, they are really talking about the level of glucose in the blood.
Impaired hearing function: Impaired hearing function is relatively common in children. About 1.9% of children have hearing loss, and permanent hearing loss is found in more than 1 in 1,000 children screened, whether or not they have symptoms. Impaired hearing is slightly more common in boys. Failure to recognize and treat hearing loss can seriously compromise a child’s ability to speak and understand language. This disability can lead to academic failure, teasing from other children, social isolation and emotional difficulties.
Coping with the disease requires coping with pain, getting tests, taking medication, and making changes in eating and lifestyle habits. A chronic health problem often disrupts a child’s education because of the frequent absences it causes. The disease and the side effects of treatment can interfere with a child’s ability to learn. Parents and teachers may have lower expectations about the academic performance of sick children; however, it is important to maintain the constructive and supportive attitude that children need to make the most of their abilities.
Effects on children: Illness and hospitalization deny children opportunities to play with other children. Other children may also reject or make fun of a sick child because of their physical differences or disabilities. A child may find that the disease changes their body, especially if the changes occur during childhood or adolescence and have not been present from birth. Children in school can be most affected by the inability to attend school and bond with their peers. Adolescents can struggle with their inability to be independent if they need the help of their parents and others for many of their daily needs. Adolescents also find it difficult to be seen as different from their peers. Parents and families can sometimes overprotect a child or adolescent and thus interfere with the development of their independence. Hospitalization, even under the best of conditions, is a stressful event for a child. Parents and children should be explained everything about the hospital stay, including the usual admission processes so that they know what to expect during hospitalization. Ideally, children will be in a children’s hospital or other hospital dedicated to children. In many hospitals, parents are encouraged to stay with their child, even during care that can be painful or frightening. Despite the presence of parents, children often become dependent (regression) during hospitalization.
Effects on parents and other family members: Chronic illnesses place severe psychological, financial, emotional, and physical burdens on parents. Sometimes, the joint struggle against these difficulties strengthens the bond between the members of the couple, even of the family. However, these loads often create tension in the couple. Parents may feel guilty about their child’s illness, especially if it is genetic, or due to pregnancy complications, or caused by an accident (such as a traffic accident) or driving in a car. a parent’s risk (such as smoking). In addition, medical care can be expensive and require parents to take time off work. Sometimes one parent takes on the burden of care alone, which can cause resentment in the other parent and a feeling of isolation in the other. Parents may also feel angry with themselves, others, health workers, or the child. Parents may also be in denial about the severity of their child’s illness. The emotional suffering that accompanies caring for a disabled or seriously ill child can thus make it difficult to build a close bond with them. Parents who spend a lot of time with a sick child often have less time to spend with other children. Siblings may resent the care received by the sick child, and even feel guilty for reacting in this way. The sick child, on the other hand, may feel guilty for the suffering and the burdens suffered by the family. Parents may also be too permissive with the sick child, or impose contradictory discipline, especially when the intensity of the symptoms varies over time. Although a child’s illness is always stressful for the whole family, there is a lot that parents can do to lessen the impact. They should read up on the child’s illness, drawing information from reliable sources, such as the child’s doctors or other medical sources. Information found on the Internet is not always correct and parents should check its reliability with doctors. Doctors can often refer parents to a support group, or to another family who has experienced similar difficulties and who can provide information and provide emotional support.
Care team: The care that a child needs often involves the intervention of medical specialists, nurses, home helpers, psychiatric staff, and other services. When available, pediatricians, who are trained to help children and families cope with the challenges of illness and hospitalization, are wonderful resources for children and their parents. A coordinator can be useful in organizing the medical care of children with complex chronic illnesses. This could be a doctor looking after the child, a nurse, a social worker, or other healthcare professional. He will ensure that the child remains socialized and that the family receives appropriate counseling, education, psychological and social support, and sufficient rest time. Whoever coordinates the services, the family and child must work together in care and decision-making processes, as the family is the child’s primary source of strength and support. This family-centered approach helps ensure that information is shared, empowers the family, and is an essential part of child care. By maintaining this family and child-centered approach, more and more medical practices are turning into patient-centered medical homes or MMCP. An MMCP is a medical office that meets additional quality guidelines from the National Center for Quality Assurance. The MMCP care team fully involves patients in the design and application of their own care. Care managers use personalized care programs and other protocols to ensure that all patients, especially those with complex medical conditions, are more involved in the management of their own medical issues and care.