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Things to Consider if you have Cerebral Palsy

May 08, 2024 -
woman pushing a young man in a wheelchair

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects one in every 400 live births in the UK. Caused by damage to the brain during development, the condition usually occurs prior to birth, or occasionally during early infancy. There are about 180,000 people in the UK with cerebral palsy and approximately 1,800 babies are diagnosed with it every year.

Research is still ongoing to find out what causes cerebral palsy. There are certain factors that can increase the risk, including the following:

  • Maternal health issues during pregnancy, including stroke, measles, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, herpes and others.
  • Infant infections
  • Traumatic head injury in infancy
  • Twins or multiple births
  • Mother aged under 20 or over 40
  • Complicated or premature birth

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy

Symptoms of cerebral palsy vary significantly from one person to the next, both in nature and severity. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk unassisted while others cannot. Some have cognitive and intellectual difficulties, others have none. Vision or hearing impairment and epilepsy can sometimes be part of cerebral palsy, but not in all cases. 

For the majority of people with cerebral palsy, symptoms become noticeable between the ages of 18 months and two years. Common symptoms include drooling, tight and stiff muscles (spasticity), problems with balance and coordination, difficulty walking, poor fine motor skills, learning and developmental difficulties, slurred speech and emotional or behavioural issues.

It is important to stress that not everyone with cerebral palsy will have all the above symptoms, and some people might have other or additional symptoms such as deafness, blindness or incontinence. Symptoms tend to remain consistent over time, and while those with cerebral palsy do not “get better,” the condition does not usually worsen with age.

Mobility aids for people with cerebral palsy

Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are medications and therapies that can help to manage the symptoms. In the 21st century, we are seeing more people than ever with cerebral palsy in the public eye. These include Britain’s Got Talent winner Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy, pictured) and writer and comedienne Rosie Jones. Both are inspirational role models who show that cerebral palsy is not a barrier to living a meaningful and rewarding life.

Appropriate household gadgets and mobility aids can make it easier and safer for people with cerebral palsy to live independently. Exact needs will depend on the individual’s symptoms and their severity, but the following aids might be needed:

Orthotic devices – braces for the foot, ankle, knee or hips improve and strengthen mobility. They also help to hold limbs in the correct position. Some orthotic devices can be purchased over the counter, while others are customized to meet individual needs.

Walkers – these assist those with cerebral palsy who have mobility difficulties like balance and posture problems that make it hard to learn to walk. They can also help to bear weight on their legs, both aiding mobility and helping to maintain bone strength and thereby reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Walking sticks and canes a walking stick provides extra stability and support for people with milder forms of cerebral palsy. There are different kinds of cane including folding canes and quad based canes that provide extra support.

Wheelchairs – wheelchairs are commonly used by people with non-ambulatory cerebral palsy. There are dozens of designs with different features, but wheelchairs can be divided into two basic types, manual wheelchairs and powerchairs. The former must be propelled by the user or pushed by an attendant, while powerchairs are wheelchairs have an electric motor.

Mobility scooters – a mobility scooter provides the gateway for people with cerebral palsy to live independently even if they cannot walk at all. They are easy to operate at the touch of a finger and come in different sizes and types. Some can even be used on the road and have a range of more than 30 miles between charges.

Assistive devices for daily living – some of the symptoms make it hard for both children and adults with cerebral palsy to carry out fundamental activities such as getting dressed, brushing teeth or boiling a kettle. Assistive devices like dressing aids and kitchen gadgets make day-to-day living easier and safer.

Choosing the mobility aids you need

The fact that symptoms can be so variable for different people with cerebral palsy means there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to get advice and input from your physical or occupational therapist, as in some cases, choosing the right mobility aid is key to managing symptoms effectively.

If you need advice on mobility products, please call our sales team on 0333 015 5000, or visit one of our showrooms

For advice about living with cerebral palsy visit Actioncp.org and Cerebralpalsy.org.uk. Also consult with your GP or CP nurse when making changes to your lifestyle.

Jon Wade
Jon Wade

Jon has been working at CareCo since 2019. He uses his extensive product knowledge to provide insights and advice on the best mobility aids for every occasion.

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