For parents of profoundly disabled children, there may seem like there is no other option than to place a child in a youth nursing home. Unfortunately, nursing homes that are specifically for children and young adults are few and far between. The more likely scenario is that a child or young adult is placed in an adult nursing home to get the care they need. What is becoming increasingly clear though is that an adult nursing home is no place for a child of any age, regardless of the disability.
Placement in a Nursing Home
Why would a loving parent place a child in a nursing home? Often a parent has no choice. A child may be so disabled that the parent needs assistance of another person, or the child needs 24-hour care. A parent, especially if they are without other family support, may find it financially and physically difficult to care for a child constantly. Some children need medications that need to be administered intravenously and an untrained person is unable to provide this type of care. In these cases, a nursing home may seem like the only option available.
Problems with Traditional Nursing Homes
A nursing home can care for a disabled child or young adult, but often there are other needs that aren’t being met in a nursing home for the elderly. A nursing home for the aged and infirm is run with the care of end-of-life patients in mind. There aren’t considerations given to the social needs of a young person, nor their education. Often times the only attention they receive is the delivery of food, medication and attention to basic hygiene needs. The rest of the time they may be left alone.
For children that are aware, living in a nursing home can be both frustrating and depressing. They have no one to talk to, they miss their friends and family and especially miss the affection and attention they had at home.
Youth Nursing Homes
A youth nursing home is run with a young person’s needs in mind. They are able to interact with other people their own age, are able to have visitors, even in the evening. Attention is given to social interaction, with planned field trips on a regular basis. Depending upon a child’s disability, special education classes are available, as are classes that can teach a job skill if the child is able. In general, more time is spent nurturing a child, physically, spiritually and mentally, than would ever be available in an eldercare facility.
Options for Parents
There is a growing movement both in the U.S. and abroad to offer more care options, other than a traditional nursing home or even a children’s nursing home, to parents of disabled children. Youth nursing homes are but one option. Other options include the availability of funding and programs which provide in-home care to disabled children. For example, the Children’s Freedom Initiative in Georgia has advocates that assist parents in finding the help they need so that they can care for disabled children in their own homes. Their mission is “creating a Georgia in which no child resides in a facility.” It is hoped that other states will follow their example and help eliminate children abandoned in eldercare facilities.
Funding options for parents can be explored through the following state and government agencies, as well as charitable organizations in the United States:
- Children’s Services
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Early Intervention Program
- Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
- Children’s Aid Society
Other Charitable Funding Programs
The following are some of the many charitable organizations that offer funding for the care of disabled children:
- Administration for Children and Families
- Disabled Children Relief Fund
- Easter Seals
- Kaitlin Marie Bell Foundation
- Midwest Special Needs Trust
- President’s Choice Children’s Fund
- The Disabled Children’s Fund
- The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project
- UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation Inc.