Moving from paediatric to adult care

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Read about the transition that must be made from paediatric to adult care.

There will come a time when your teenager with chronic pain needs to work with a team experienced in the care of adults and take full charge of their own health.

This transition can be quite emotional and stressful for all involved. Moving on to a new health-care setting is like graduating from high school to college. Over a short period of time, your teenager shifts from being the biggest, oldest, and wisest person in the setting to being a young, inexperienced “rookie” in a larger and different environment. Some teenagers find the new experience exciting. Others prefer the security of their old situation. What the treatment team expects of your teen, in relation to self-management and control, will be different as they are moving from paediatric care to adult care. In the adult system, young adults are expected to take complete responsibility for themselves over time.

There are several ways to increase the chances that your teen will successfully transfer from a child-centred health-care setting to an adult one.

Ideally, the change to adult care should come when your teenager is confident and responsible enough to move forward. Hospital or clinic policy usually dictates a transition between the ages of 16 and 20 years. Many parents begin getting their child ready for the transition to adult care at an even earlier age. There is indirect evidence that transitions are most successful when they begin as early as possible and include the teen attending medical appointments without their parents.

You can help your teenager make a successful transfer by encouraging them to take an active part in their own care when they are a child and as they move into adolescence. Teens should learn to solve problems for themselves and to make choices about medication, physical activities, and lifestyle. This sets the foundation for your teen to manage their own behaviour as they grow into adulthood.

They will also need private time with their health-care providers, including their pain specialist and general practitioner. Dealing with health-care appointments alone, even occasionally, helps promote their sense of independence and responsibility. Before they move into adult care, teenagers should have the opportunity to explore various options for continuing health care. It is also helpful for teens leaving the paediatric care centre to take part in either an individual or a group transition program.

Starting early

  • Teenagers should know as much as possible about chronic pain and how to cope with it.
  • Teenagers should be encouraged to participate in all aspects of their own care.
  • Teenagers should begin going to medical appointments alone. The frequency of independent visits can increase as the teen matures and begins to take more responsibility for their own health care.
Last updated: September 16th 2009