Life Care Planning Facts for Children
It is a hard fact of life that children can be badly injured in accidents, or fall ill unexpectedly, be burnt, or suffer birth injuries. As a physical medicine physician since 1990, and an expert in the creation of comprehensive medical life care plans at my practice, I’ve seen many tough cases in which a child or an infant needed my help. And as a father of 4 myself, I can tell you that these experiences never get easier. If I am able to do anything to assist in life care planning for hurt children it is my honor to do so. Below is critical background information and guidance in determining if your son, daughter, grandchild etc. could benefit from our assistance here at BiFulco Medical Group.
*Toby was seven years old when he had his accident. He was on the playground and climbing on the monkey bars when he fell. The leg fracture he suffered extended through the growth plate. This tibial fracture could result in unequal legs as he grew up. Thus as we worked on his life care plan, or care plan for life, we included the possibility of a leg-lengthening procedure. This is an extensive orthopedic procedure in which the leg is lengthened. It’s a rare surgery and required the input of a specialized orthopedic surgeon. We were able to say within a reasonable degree of medical and life care planning that this child would require this procedure in order to grow up walking without significant hindrance.”
What Do Injuries Look Like in Children?
To put it simply: serious injuries look different for kids. HealthPartners lists the most common ones:
Not only do children heal at different rates than adults, they also heal at different rates from each other. Two children with broken legs are likely not going to get back to walking on the same day. The emotional component is also different; there isn’t a lot of masking their symptoms, or acting as if they are in denial of what has happened. Children tend to be quite straightforward and honest about what they’re going through and how they feel.
Much of what I see in the cases I take on are traumatic injuries. The vast majority are fractures. They happen due to defective playground equipment, a hit during a sports event, or a car accident in which the child was seated next to a window. I am always concerned about growth-plate fractures; affecting the arm, the knee, or the ankle. These can affect physical growth and the maturation of the bone itself. Limb deficiencies—one growing longer or more crooked—are also always a top concern. With upper-extremity injuries, a child’s future career choices are likely affected as well.
And finally, there are head injuries and burns. These tragic cases impact entire families and communities. We work hard to protect kids from chronic pain and get them the support they need in their recovery.
Creating Life Care Plans for Kids
And that brings us to creating a child’s life care plan. When we do this work for adults, we’re planning the next 20-50 years of their lives. Children obviously can anticipate a longer life span and a larger number of transitions as they grow, moving through puberty and beyond. These different phases of life each require a close eye. Some of the potential costs we focus on include:
- Loss of schooling/learning
- Cost of tutoring
- Cost of physical therapy
- Hearing issues
- Sight issues
- Cost of surgeries
- Mobility aids (leg braces and crutches, for example)
- Specialized care
- Medicines (with kids, narcotics are avoided)
This is just a sampling; the list goes on for many pages. It’s fair to say that for any of the reasons listed above, a child’s life care plan is even more nuanced than the ones created for most adults. What is key for kids is re-evaluation. You cannot expect to complete a life care plan that will not require adjustment 5 or 10 years down the road.
And at every stage, it’s important not to indulge in speculation. All potential problems are viewed through the lens of life care expectancy, whether they are “more likely than not” to occur. This life care planning process also takes into consideration, of course, multiple treating physicians willing to give opinions on future care.
Sometimes it is hard to know early on how an injury such as a skull fracture will affect a child’s future. Will they be able to make a living? Will they have their choice of career? Decades of experience go into doing our best to ensure a happy and pain-free life ahead for our young patients. To learn more or ask additional questions on the topic of life care planning for children, click here—and yes, we do offer telehealth consultations.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.