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Commentary |

Disability in Children and Young Adults The Unintended Consequences

Nancy Murphy, MD; Becky Christian, PhD, RN
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(10):930-932. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.10.930.
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Approximately 5.6 million children in the United States have health conditions associated with moderate to severe limitations in self-care activities, and 1.5 million children are limited in their ability to walk, care for themselves, or participate in other activities.14 Because there are differing definitions of disability and its severity, national estimates of prevalence vary. However, at least several million children in the United States will never be able to care for themselves. Historically, hospital or institutional care was the only option for these children, but as a result of sociopolitical and health care changes, pervasive nursing shortages, and scarce home care resources, most of the care of children with disabilities is now provided by their parents in their homes.5 Parents are shouldering more caregiving responsibilities that, because of technological advances and increased survival rates, have become increasingly complex and long-term.5,6 National initiatives have suggested that it is preferable for all children with disabilities to be cared for at home rather than in congregate care settings.7 For example, a goal of Healthy People 20108 is to reduce the number of persons 22 years and younger in congregate care settings from 24 300 to zero. Although these initiatives and recommendations may be well intentioned, they have contributed to serious and undesirable consequences for the child, the parents, the family, and health care systems.

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