Sometimes children find it difficult to handle a lifelong disease, especially if they feel different from their friends. They may react with defiant, impulsive or depressive behaviors, and the entire family may feel the effects of the disease as a result.

At Cumberland Hospital, we understand children whose chronic illnesses impact their emotional outlook and behaviors. Combining positive reinforcement with medical treatment, our experienced professionals help young people ages two to 22 heal physically and emotionally.

We show patients and their families how to successfully integrate effective disease management strategies into their daily lives so they can begin to enjoy life again.

Care and Goals

Cumberland’s Chronic Illness Program provides a structured environment for medical supervision and treatment of underlying emotional, social and behavioral challenges. Our reality-based, functional approach teaches patients how to integrate their chronic illness into a healthy lifestyle. Learning practical life skills gives patients a sense of control in their lives, as well as a taste of independence.

Criteria for Admission:

  • A chronic illness diagnosis
  • Two to 22 years of age
  • Inability to function independently at an age-appropriate level in the areas of self-care, mood stability or school
  • Exhibits a specific pattern of self-destruction and behaviors inconsistent with responsible management of their chronic illness

Treatment Overview

Cumberland’s clinical, interdisciplinary treatment team is led by a pediatrician with training in adolescent medicine. The patient, family and involved professionals from the child’s home community each play an integral role on the treatment team, meeting regularly to set goals, develop treatment plans and review progress.

Our pediatrician directs each patient’s medical care, which is administered by nurses onsite 24 hours a day. Educating patients about their illness and the importance of medical self-management is a major program focus. Patients may practice managing their unique medical needs, such as monitoring blood sugar levels or skin integrity to watch for signs of breakdown.

At Cumberland, we treat the mind as well as the body, teaching young people to recognize their emotional needs as mental health issues that may complicate their illness. Intensive individual and group psychotherapy programs address each patient’s unique emotional and behavioral issues. Each patient participates in weekly chronic illness group sessions to discuss the emotional effects and adjustment problems that can accompany an ongoing illness or injury. A major focus is on developing compensatory and coping skills.

Topics include:

  • Anger management
  • Self-esteem
  • Body image
  • Assertiveness
  • Peer pressure
  • Healthy sexuality

Depending on the type of chronic illness and your child’s specific needs, Cumberland also provides:

  • Individual and group nutritional instruction
  • Activity therapy sessions to learn positive leisure choices
  • Exercise groups
  • Eating Attitudes Training (EAT) group focusing on eating patterns and self-care cooking skills
  • Individual and group diabetes instruction
  • Cognitive retraining
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy

Diabetes, Morbid Obesity and Eating Disorders

Diabetes and eating disorders are serious medical conditions on their own. When combined, however, these conditions can be especially dangerous. Patients with both diabetes and an eating disorder — often referred to as diabulimia — participate in components of our specially designed diabetes program.

Cumberland’s insulin management program helps patients advance toward the use of an insulin pump system. The plan enables patients to choose their desired amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat and then take insulin based on their planned food intake. This not only gives patients control over their lives but also helps them understand body chemistry and how food and exercise impact their bodies. Patients must demonstrate maturity, independence and responsibility to qualify for this program component.

Our eating disorders program addresses issues such as body image, nutrition and unhealthy attitudes, helping adolescents change distorted thinking patterns. Patients progress through a series of phases — each building on the progress made in the previous phase.

Family dynamic is a critical element in both the diabetes and eating disorders programs. Through therapy, families learn healthy ways to support their child and each other as they cope with the ways illness affects their lives.