The Cost of Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement, can have a profound impact on a child's development. This condition, often caused by a birth injury that damages the brain before, during, or shortly after birth, can lead to a range of developmental challenges—from impaired movement and difficulty with coordination to issues with speech and learning. The nature and extent of these challenges can vary widely from one child to another, but they all share one thing in common: they can necessitate extensive, ongoing care that can be significantly expensive, much more so than what most parents expect.

How Much Does Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy Cost?

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that estimated the financial impact of raising a child with cerebral palsy would be $921,000 across the child’s life. Adjusted for inflation and today’s costs, this amount equates to approximately $1,600,000 in average lifetime costs to raise a child with cerebral palsy. This seven-figure expense is the cost to raise them in addition to what one would expect to pay to raise a child without a developmental challenge like CP, too.

Why is CP Care for a Child So Expensive?

Caring for a child with cerebral palsy tends to be more expensive than caring for a child without this condition, primarily due to the specialized care and services that these children often require. Parents should know more about what to expect if their child has been diagnosed with CP, so they can plan their finances.

A breakdown of some of the key costs associated with raising a child with CP includes:

  • Specialized medical care: Children with CP typically require ongoing medical care from a range of specialists, including neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. These specialists work together to manage the child's symptoms, improve their mobility, and enhance their quality of life. The costs of these services can add up quickly, particularly since many children with CP require treatment on a regular basis.
  • Rehabilitative therapies: Therapies like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy are often essential for children with CP. These therapies can help them develop strength, improve coordination, overcome speech difficulties, and learn to perform daily tasks more independently. However, these therapies can be costly, especially when they're needed over the long term.
  • Special education services: Many children with CP have learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments that require special education services, such as individualized education programs, tutoring, and assistive technology, all of which can be expensive.
  • Daily care and assistance: Depending on the severity of their condition, some children with CP may require assistance with daily tasks like eating, bathing, dressing, and moving around. This can necessitate the hiring of a caretaker or personal aide, which represents another significant expense.
  • Adaptive equipment: Children with CP often need adaptive equipment to help with mobility and daily activities. Wheelchairs, walkers, orthotic devices, specialized seating systems, and communication devices are common types of adaptive equipment. These items can be quite costly, and as the child grows, they may need to be replaced or upgraded.
  • Home and vehicle modifications: Families may need to modify their homes or vehicles to accommodate a child's wheelchair or other adaptive equipment.

Other Ways CP Impacts a Family’s Finances

The $1.6-million cost to raise a child with cerebral palsy is only part of the financial equation, though. A family’s finances can also be unexpectedly impacted if a parent or guardian has to work less to take care of their child. Missed or reduced wages in this way can add up throughout the years, “costing” tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The CDC estimate of CP care costs also did not factor in emergency room visits for children who suffer dangerous complications of cerebral palsy. If this expense was added to the calculation, the total cost of care could be much more.

Is There Financial Assistance for Parents of Children with CP?

Financial assistance can be available for parents of children with cerebral palsy. Unique sources of assistance come in various forms and from different sectors, all aiming to alleviate the financial burden that these families often face.

A parent of a child with CP might be able to get financial aid through:

  • Government assistance: The federal government offers several programs that provide financial support for families raising children with cerebral palsy. For example, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides temporary compensation for families in need. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another government assistance option that provides benefits to disabled children based on their family's income.
  • Health insurance policies: Depending on the specific policy, health insurance can cover a significant portion of the medical costs associated with cerebral palsy. Policies can cover the costs of doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, therapies, and sometimes even adaptive equipment.
  • Community-based programs: Local community-based programs can also offer financial support. For example, Help Hope Live is a crowdfunding-based fundraising source that assists families in receiving financial support for cerebral palsy treatments.
  • Charities and non-profit organizations: Various charities and non-profit organizations offer family grants, scholarships, and other types of financial help specifically for individuals with cerebral palsy. The Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association (CHASA) and UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation (UHCCF) are examples of organizations that provide this kind of assistance.

What is a Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawsuit?

A birth injury lawsuit is a legal action taken by parents or guardians if they believe their child's cerebral palsy was caused by medical malpractice during the prenatal, delivery, or postnatal period. Do you think that your child’s CP could have been prevented had a medical provider been more careful? Many cases of cerebral palsy are directly caused by medical malpractice, so it could be possible, and you should look into your legal options.

If you think your child’s CP was caused by medical malpractice, you should consider:

  • Hiring an attorney: The first step is to hire an attorney who focuses on birth injury and medical malpractice cases. Such lawyers have in-depth knowledge of medical and legal issues that could come up and can provide invaluable guidance throughout the legal process.
  • Investigation: Your attorney can launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding your child's birth and if a medical mistake could have caused CP. This investigative process may involve reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, consulting with medical experts, and gathering other relevant evidence.
  • Establishing negligence: To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, it's necessary to prove that the healthcare provider was negligent. To establish negligence, it should be shown that the provider failed to meet the standard of care expected in their profession, and this failure directly resulted in the child's cerebral palsy.
  • Filing the lawsuit: If your attorney believes there's sufficient evidence of negligence, they can file a lawsuit against the responsible party or parties, which could include a doctor, nurse, hospital, or an entire medical institution.
  • Negotiations and trial: After the lawsuit is filed, there may be negotiations for a settlement. If a settlement can't be reached, the case could move to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the outcome.
  • Compensation: If the lawsuit is successful, the family may receive compensation for medical expenses, ongoing care costs, pain and suffering, loss of future earnings, and other damages.

Questions About CP Lawsuits? Get Legal Counsel Now

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to a birth injury, it's crucial to know that you're not alone and that help is available. Our legal team at Brown & Barron in Maryland is always ready to handle challenging cases like yours. We take pride in being recognized throughout the country as strong legal fighters who focus on representing those who were injured by medical providers and caretakers, including children who suffer a birth injury as serious as cerebral palsy. Don't hesitate to reach out to ask for a free case review and to learn more about your options—just dial (410) 698-1717 to begin.

close-up hand of a child on a wheel from a wheelchair
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