Ageing and CP: Accepting Change

Make no mistake: Cerebral Palsy (CP) is not for sissies. A recent study 1 aimed at better understanding the experiences of adults with CP, was most insightful and the feedback is worthy of sharing. Twenty-eight adults with CP, aged 37 to 70, underwent in-depth interviews. Five themes seem to cover the breadth of participants’ experiences with CP and healthcare. In this article we touch on the first, being ‘Acceptance of Change’.

The truth of growing older with a condition like CP involves the action of recognising that constant change is here to stay … many participants experienced a growing awareness that physical resources were limited; that they seemed to be slowing down faster than their non-disabled peers; that energy seemed to be decreasing rapidly as they grew older. Some people said they had to face the fact that they were more reliant on others, and found it difficult to ask for help more frequently. Getting over that hurdle was a big deal, as Sharon (in her 40s) pointed out: “I used to try and go—and get frustrated because I couldn't. But I think I'm more willing…I know I'm more willing to say, “It's hard, can I have some help?”

While some found it difficult, other respondents made peace with it and changed their perspectives from that of “I need a walking aid now! How awful!” to “Thank heavens I can still get around!” Maria, also in her 40s, had this to say: “I think that it was more of a pride thing, I didn't want a walking aid. I wanted to be independent without the use of aids but now—admittedly I'm a bit self-conscious. Yeah. Oh well, I just use it because I need it. [It was hard] because you want to look as ‘normal’ as possible but when you've got this walker out in front of you and—but now I just enjoy getting around!”

All participants discussed ways of dealing with ageing by modifying activities and scheduling rest periods, as well as adapting their environments to greater use of equipment. At Forest Farm we are experienced at dealing with adults who have CP. We’ve adapted our environment to make life easier for the ageing individual. Quality of life is the essence of our focus here at Forest Farm. After all …

why shouldn’t ‘growing old gracefully’ be within everyone’s reach?

Reference: 1. Mudge S, Rosie J, Stott S, et al Ageing with cerebral palsy; what are the health experiences of adults with cerebral palsy?
A qualitative study BMJ Open 2016;6:e012551. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016- 012551