In Special Needs News

Child sitting in sling over bed while her mother speaks to her.Children with disabilities need a high level of care, which can be difficult considering the fact that over 2 million health care jobs are unfilled.

A recent study in Colorado showed that hiring family members as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) can be an effective way to provide consistent care for children with disabilities.

Read on to learn more about how this works.

About the Study

In a study published by The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied children in Colorado who received Medicaid care from CNAs who were family members or nonfamily members. The study showed that children who received care from family members were less likely to require additional nursing-level care. Paid family caregivers are naturally much more likely to remain in the caregiving roles than nonfamily members.

Colorado’s program to pay parents and other family members to serve as caregivers has been in place since 2001. These family members receive CNA certifications and then are hired by home health agencies to care for their children. Elsewhere in the country, grandparents sometimes serve in these roles, but many states will not pay parents to care for their own disabled children.

What Can a Family CNA Caregiver Do?

The idea of delivering health care services can be intimidating for those who do not work in the medical field. However, after receiving training as a certified nursing assistant, a family member will be qualified to do the following for a disabled child in their family:

  • Collect vital signs
  • Feed with a tube or syringe
  • Transfer and bathe safely
  • Provide chest percussion therapy
  • Set oxygen flow rates
  • Place braces and splits

A family CNA would not be qualified to change IV catheter dressings or provide respiratory care for tracheostomy or ventilator patients. Children with disabilities can receive care from family and nonfamily CNA caregivers working on different shifts in the same day.

Results of the Study

At the end of the three-year study, 82 percent of the family caregivers were still providing care, compared to 9 percent for the nonfamily caregivers. This was true even though the family members were making an hourly average wage of $14.60 compared to $17.60 for their nonfamily counterparts. The quality of care was almost identical as well, with the family members’ children only requiring one additional day of hospitalization per year.

“States should consider adopting policies that promote avenues to allow parents to obtain CNA or other relevant credentials and to be paid for their child’s care,” the researchers stated. “Such policies would enable state programs to meet their legal obligation to provide medical services for enrolled children while also reducing family financial strain.”

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