Advice for Medical Professionals Helping Someone with Cerebral Palsy

Advice for Medical Professionals Helping Someone with Cerebral Palsy

Going to a doctor is important for both preventing sickness or dealing with it. Unfortunately, having cerebral palsy prevents many people from seeing their doctor on a regular basis. Sadly, most medical professionals have little to no idea about how to take care of, or even talk to, someone with cerebral palsy.

My cerebral palsy affects my entire body. Sitting still is virtually impossible for me. My arms and legs have a mind of their own, no matter how hard I try to control them. I also have a speech impediment that people around me often need to get used to hearing. However, I am fully capable of thinking, making my own decisions, and understanding everything being told or done to me.

During my life, I have had to see numerous medical personnel due to illness or for annual wellness checkups. Unfortunately, many doctors and nurses do not understand how to properly communicate with and care for someone with cerebral palsy. In an emergency situation, not knowing what to do can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation.

Here’s some advice I would like to give healthcare professionals treating or assisting, in any way, people with cerebral palsy:

Please don’t assume you know everything about my disability or me personally. On first sight, you don’t know if your patient is mentally challenged or has a genius IQ. Countless times I’ve had a doctor come in the room and assume I had a mental challenge. I’d like doctors to stop talking to people who have cerebral palsy like they were children, or talking loudly as if they were deaf. They deserve the same respect as anyone you help or give service to. No need to treat them any different until you know their capabilities.

Talk to the patient. Medical staff often talk to the person accompanying a patient with a disability, and not directly to patients themselves. Often a person with cerebral palsy might have a personal care attendant, friend, or family member in the exam room. But a physician or nurse should direct questions or directions to the person being cared for. It’s very impolite to go in and talk to everyone else but the patient.

Remember, we’re individuals. Not all people who have cerebral palsy have it the exact same way. How cerebral palsy affects someone varies from person to person. Some people might have stiff muscles while others might have involuntary movements. Some can walk and some can’t. It all depends on the person. Ask people how cerebral palsy affects them before guessing.

Please don’t say, “sit still,” to someone who has cerebral palsy. Sitting still can be extremely difficult and not a choice. The more you ask someone to sit still, the more the body reacts by moving. Explain what you’re going to do and try to work together to successfully do it. Ask patients if they have ideas on positioning to may help make them more comfortable.

Listen to patients even if they have a speech impediment. Speech impediments happen to people who have cerebral palsy. It doesn’t mean that they don’t know what you’re saying to or they’re not comprehending. It means that you need to listen with patience, so you understand what they need, think, and feel.

Don’t assume someone with cerebral palsy doesn’t have children, work, marriages, and hold normal lives. Cerebral palsy doesn’t affect childbirth or the reproductive system. People with cerebral palsy are just people with a body that responds differently in motion. Plain and simple.

Ignore the disability. Every patient is different, and that is true when dealing with someone who has a disability. As hard as it may sound, try to ignore the disability and talk to them as you would to anyone else.

Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy. 

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