Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the most frequent causes of child disability in developed countries. Children with CP need lifelong assistance and care. The current prevalence of CP in industrialized countries ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 per 1,000 live births, with one new case every 500 live births. Children with CP have an almost normal life expectancy and mortality is very low. Despite the low mortality rate, 5%-10% of them die during childhood, especially when the severe motor disability is comorbid with epilepsy and severe intellectual disability. Given this life expectancy, children with CP present with a lifelong disability of varying severity and complexity, which requires individualized pathways of care. There are no specific treatments that can remediate the brain damage responsible for the complex clinical-functional dysfunctions typical of CP. There are, however, a number of interventions (eg, neurorehabilitation, functional orthopedic surgery, medication, etc) aimed at limiting the damage secondary to the brain insult and improving these patients' activity level and participation and, therefore, their quality of life. The extreme variability of clinical aspects and the complexity of affected functions determine a multifaceted skill development in children with CP. There is a need to provide them with long-term care, taking into account medical and social aspects as well as rehabilitation, education, and assistance. This long-term care must be suited according to children's developmental stage and their physical, psychological, and social development within their life contexts. This impacts heavily on the national health systems which must set up a network of services for children with CP, and it also impacts heavily on the family as a whole, due to the resulting distress, adjustment efforts, and changes in quality of life. This contribution is a narrative review of the current literature on long-term care for children with CP, aiming at suggesting reflections to improve these children's care.
Keywords: cerebral palsy; disability; long-term care; rehabilitation.