Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Costs of Special Needs Adoption - Part IV

This week I've written about the financial, social and emotional costs of special needs adoption.  In today's installment, I'm going to talk about some of the physical costs, which are often completely overlooked.

There are four ways special needs children can take a physical toll on parents.  The first, and probably the most obvious, is the toll one pays dealing with a child's schedule.  The constant shuffling between psychiatric, educational, medical and dental appointments can wear a parent out.  I remember at one point we had thirteen meetings a week scheduled for our child, including the extra-curricular activities that were supposed to be "fun."

We were exhausted.  Trying to juggle our child's schedule, our work, and our own personal needs was impossible, so our needs fell to the bottom of the stack as our work and our child took priority over everything else.  The word tired didn't even come close, and the first year after we became foster parents we were sick with every cold and flu bug that our kid brought home from school.

The second physical price parents of special needs kids can pay is when they have to manage a child's troubling behavior.  If a family struggles with a child's emotional or behavioral problems, the inevitable emotional roller coaster that goes with it can be exhausting.  Keeping one's emotions in check, trying to stick to therapeutic parenting techniques, and managing one's own hurt, fear and disappointment can wear out even the most determined parent.  Although the behaviors themselves can be emotionally wearing to the point of causing physical exhaustion, physically dealing with them can be tiring as well.  If a child's behaviors are severe enough, one might find themselves in the position of having to give restraint, or defend against a physical attack.

The third physical cost is that which is created by simply caring for the child.  This is especially true when one cares for a child with a physical disability.  Children who require mobility assistance, diaper changes, or help bathing and dressing don't stop growing.  A kid who is easy to lift and move around when he is five can become just as large and heavy as an adult by the time he is a teenager.

Having done physical home health care back in my late 20's for a man with cerebral palsy, I can attest to the fact that this type of care can be very physically demanding.  At the time, I was young and strong, and I found creative ways to get him in and out of the bathtub without a lift, or off the floor without help.  The job was made more difficult because there wasn't funding for another aide, so I never got a break.  I worked for this gentleman, day after day, week after week, month after month, with no days off.  After a while, I started to develop chronic back pain, which numerous visits to the chiropractor didn't help.  Eventually, the daily stresses of caring for him became too much.  I had to quit.

Parents don't have the option of quitting. 

Finally, caring for special needs can be especially stressful, and stress can create a huge physical toll in and of itself.  Stress can cause a variety of physical and emotional ailments, and dealing with it 24/7 with little or no respite can wipe a body out.

The reality too, especially for the kids with higher needs, is that it's very hard to separate out all the different costs that parents might pay for their special needs children.  Financial and social difficulties can lead to a parent's emotional struggles, stress, and physical illnesses.  Even more troubling is that there really isn't a way to predict ahead of time what a child's needs might be. 

For those that want to take on special-needs kids, I strongly suggest that you do it while you are still relatively young and strong.  It's much easier to deal with the financial, social, emotional and physical challenges earlier in life because there's more years ahead during which you can bounce back.  It's much easier to deal with a financial crisis when you have more earning years ahead, and it's much easier to deal with the social, emotional and physical challenges when your body and mind is more resilient.

Next up: Reader Comments

1 comment:

  1. Physical costs:
    1. I've gotten shingles twice.
    2. High stress, lowers your body's resistance/ immune system so I get sick more often (and can't afford to take the time to completely heal).
    3. Scars from bites and fingernails (infected).
    4. Sore muscles from the physical strain of physical restraints and holding my body stiffly due to tension.
    5. Weight- RAD parents typically gain 20lbs a year - we eat to replace the love we don't get from the kids. 70+lbs. *sigh*
    6. Mental health - I have mild bipolar, but only need medication when I'm under high stress... guess when I had to go on meds.
    7. To try to get everything done, and probably partly as a symptom of my bipolar, I rarely sleep anymore. I stay up till the wee hours of the morning, reading blogs and other support groups, or just playing solitaire type games to destress.
    8. I never go to the doctor anymore. Partly because I don't have time, but also because we don't have health insurance, because I can't get a job, because I'm home all day supervising two special needs kids.
    9. And so on...



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