Disability usually occurs unpredictably and can happen in a fraction of a second. The major physical and psychological life changes that result from disability can affect the patient's entire family. When a parent becomes disabled, the focus of a family's attention often is shifted to the parent, and the responses and needs of the children may be overlooked. Empirical data reveal that children have special needs whenever their life changes, and they share common concerns during a major life crisis. The authors’ observations at a neurological rehabilitation center indicate that children appear to go through several phases of adjustment and need specialized supportive therapy when a parent becomes disabled.
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Edith Flickinger is pursuing a master's degree in psychiatric mental health nursing at Kent State University in Kent, OH. Shelly Amato is a clinical nurse specialist at Metro-Health Medical Center in Cleveland, OH.