Health isn’t just about the physical wellbeing of a child. In fact, behavioral or mental health is essential to overall health.
At the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, we welcome families who are seeking all types of treatment for their children. Many patient families are seeking care for ailments, such as cancer or organ transplants, but many come to Cleveland for mental and behavioral health issues. These include eating disorders, autism camps, ADHD programs, psychiatric care…basically any treatment that addresses the physical and emotional health of a child.
In 2016, the Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation accounted for fourteen percent of family visits, the fourth most needed treatment sought by our families.
The Pain Rehabilitation Program helps children ages eight to 22 learn to cope with chronic pain that interferes with everyday life. The program primarily serves children with complex regional pain syndrome, chronic headaches and migraines, and conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic abdominal pain, and arthritis.
The goal of the program is to return children to a normal life. By the time the patients enter the program, they’re not attending school, they’re not hanging out with their friends, and they’re spending hours in medical facilities trying to identify the source of the pain. The pain changes the family dynamic. One parent is caring for the child, most likely missing work, while the other parent has to take care of siblings. This in turn may cause marital conflict.
Patients entering the pain management program have been on a long journey. Most families have seen multiple surgeons, specialists, and hospital systems. They know that surgery and medication is not going to solve the problem. Says Kristen Buchannan, program coordinator, “Because there is not a physical, medical, or organic reason for the pain, others assume the problem is psychological only.” They’re often depressed, have anxiety, or suffer from a sleeping or mood disorder.
Concern regarding dependence on prescription pain killers may also prompt families to seek alternatives to traditional pain medications alone. The opioid crisis in the U.S. is well-documented, and its victims include children and teens. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 11.5 million Americans aged 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in 2016. At the onset, many users become addicted after a legitimate need to take prescription painkillers.