|Adults with cerebral palsy can face a large amount of extra bills that other adults don't normally have to deal with. While the costs for an adult with cerebral palsy are typically not as great as those of a growing child, they can still be quite large.
Adults with cerebral palsy have a consistently higher mortality rate than the general public. Just how much higher is a bit vague due to the fact that many people with cerebral palsy also have other associated conditions such as epilepsy or mental retardation. The one trend which seems to be reproduced in various studies is that those who also have a high degree of mental retardation also seem to have the shortest life expectancy. Respiratory infections and diseases are more likely to occur in adults with cerebral palsy, and are most often cited as a major contributing factor to the shorter life span. One study found that 77% of the people with cerebral palsy in the study died of pneumonia. There was also a greater number of adults with cerebral palsy who died of breast cancer when compared to the general public. This can be due to poorer detection which results in a lower chance of finding such cancers early on. All of this points to the fact that once a person with cerebral palsy has reached adulthood, they are not "out of the woods". Far too many adults with cerebral palsy are not receiving quality of care that they should. It is very important for adults with cerebral palsy to make sure they get adequate healthcare and that they needs are fully met.
A lot of times cerebral palsy can seem to accelerate the aging process. While it does not actually cause you to age prematurely, complications arising from cerebral palsy can cause some problems to occur earlier than normal. If an adult has problems opening their mouth wide due to spasticity, teeth may decay faster than normal and jaw bone problems could set in.
Often times joint and muscle pain increases as a person with cerebral palsy ages because of the extra pressure and strain that spasticity can exert on bones and muscles. Arthritis can result from this at a relatively early age. Fatigue may also set in during adulthood, as the joints and spine of the person change due to the physical stress of spasticity. This can make it more difficult to breathe.
While most doctors who specialize in cerebral palsy tend to specialize in children, it is important to get a doctor who is familiar with cerebral palsy and the extra burden it can put on the aging body. For most people, proper diet, some exercise, and a yearly checkup (with occasional screenings for various types of cancers) is all that is necessary to stay healthy. Due to the cost of healthcare this alone can be hard for the average adult to accomplish. For the individual with cerebral palsy, this is the bare minimum. Very little research has been done specifically on the effects of cerebral palsy on the adult as they age. For this reason alone, an adult with cerebral palsy should be active in their healthcare, having frequent checkups with their doctor in order to catch any complications as early as possible. Studies show that after leaving the school system (including college), adults with cerebral palsy do not have their healthcare needs met as well as they did as students. A lot of the free programs offered by schools are expensive to continue as an adult. One might find themselves having to pay much more for physical therapy and special workshops as an adult.
If an adult has a hard time either feeding themselves or eating a large amount of food, due to a difficulty swallowing, they can easily suffer from malnutrition and all the complications which it can bring. It is important that the adult with cerebral palsy has food with a high nutritional count. Sometimes the impaired mobility which accompanies most cerebral palsy makes it hard to take frequent trips to the grocery store to stock up on fresh vegetables and fruits. New services such as online ordering and delivery of groceries can help make sure that the person's refrigerator is constantly stocked with healthy food, though at a slightly higher cost than going to the store yourself. Over the course of a year, one can end up spending extra hundreds of dollars on these important services.
Exercise is also important for the adult with cerebral palsy. Their impaired mobility may prevent them from getting enough exercise during their normal daily routine. Often it is very beneficial to join a gym. Joining a gym can help the person with cerebral palsy build up muscle strength, perform stretching exercises, and take time to focus on their bodies. It can be difficult to get in and out of wheelchairs and onto gym equipment, which can increase the time somebody with cerebral palsy may have to spend at the gym to get a decent workout. Some gyms have workout equipment which is made specifically for those in wheelchairs, often not requiring them to leave the chair to use the equipment. Gym membership can run up to a hundred dollars a month for some of the nicer facilities which are more likely to have specialized machines for those with disabilities. This too is an expense which should not be sacrificed since the benefits are many.
Some adults with cerebral palsy require wheelchairs to get around. While they do not have to worry about outgrowing their wheel chair in a few years as children often do, they still must make sure that their chair fits their needs. Accessories such as a surface for a laptop and extra support cushions can increase the cost of the wheelchair. One can spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a proper wheelchair with accessories. If the adult with cerebral palsy want to engage in sports, they may also need to purchase a separate sports wheelchair. These are typically lighter than the normal models and the wheels are modified to resist tipping and tumbling. Some wheelchairs are manually powered and others have motors, which add to the cost of the chair.
Also, if the adult with cerebral palsy uses a wheelchair and also needs to drive a car, they will need to modify their car. It can cost thousands to properly modify a car with adaptive equipment, depending on the amount of modification necessary. A new car outfitted with adaptive equipment can run from $20,000 to $80,000.
Orthopedic surgeries, while more common in children, are still helpful in adults to treat spasticity. They recurrence of such surgeries does usually do down after a person reaches adulthood.
Botox injections can also be beneficial to adults with cerebral palsy. The injections weaken the muscles for up to 4 months, which can reduce spasticity. While the effects are temporary, there are minimal side effects so the procedure can be done over and over again. The very fact that this treatment may be administered multiple times over the course of years, means that it can be a high recurring cost for adults.
Just as with children, muscle relaxing drugs can help ease spasticity in adults with cerebral palsy. These can include Valium, Lioresal, and Dantrium. The cost of refilling these prescriptions can be over a hundred dollars a month.
The relatively new hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment can be beneficial to adults as well. In this treatment, the person is placed in a pressurized chamber which is then pumped full of oxygen, so that the oxygen concentration is nearly 100% (the air we usually breath contains 21% oxygen). These usually cost $100 to $200 dollars per treatment, and are not often covered by insurance since the effectiveness of such treatments against cerebral palsy have not been very well established.
While the expenses for adults with cerebral palsy may be lower than children with cerebral palsy, their are still important services and items which can make it financially difficult for those adults.