Fatigue is very common among mothers of children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP), and is linked to higher levels of depression and a lower quality of life, suggesting that the well-being of mothers needs to be considered when designing family-centered rehabilitation programs for kids with CP.
But for such programs to be effective, more research is needed to understand how fatigue among mothers impacts the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
The study, “Fatigue in the mothers of children with cerebral palsy,” was published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.
Researchers at the Pinar Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Center in Turkey recruited 90 children with spastic CP and their mothers to the study. In addition, 50 normally developing children and their mothers were included as controls.
The CP children were on average 9.7 years old, and their mothers were on average 34.3 years, with similar ages among controls.
Results showed that mothers of children with CP scored significantly higher on a test examining fatigue. Intensity and duration of fatigue were higher, and so was its impact on the mothers’ quality of life.
In fact, all aspects of quality of life were affected by fatigue: the presence of pain, physical mobility, energy, sleep, social isolation and emotional reactions, as well as the presence of depression among the moms.
The research team also studied whether the children’s levels of physical impairment could be linked to their mother’s fatigue. Symptom features, including the inability to sit without support or having urinary and fecal incontinence, were found to have no impact on fatigue. The same was true when researchers examined the type of CP, the severity of movement impairment or spasticity, or the presence of developmental disabilities.
The team speculated that fatigue among these mothers may be caused by low levels of physical exercise, low perceived social support, the use of self-blame coping strategies, as well as time-consuming requirements such as medical and therapy appointments.
But they also noted that access to assistive technology for children with cerebral palsy is lacking in Turkey, a factor that may add to an already heavy burden of caring for a child with CP.
Since fatigue among moms may have a negative impact on the outcomes of a rehabilitation program — requiring a multidisciplinary approach involving all family members, and in particular mothers — the issue needs to be dealt with in the design of future rehabilitation schemes.
More studies are needed, however, to better understand which way the effectiveness of rehabilitation is affected by mothers’ fatigue.