Transitioning to Adult Care

By Heather Bauman

July 2022

At one time or another we all find ourselves learning and adapting to a new stage in life. This is a process called transition, and for some of us it can be a journey that spans many years. For families living with hemophilia, many parts of the journey are shared with the comprehensive care team.

Three main stages of development – childhood to teenage years
Stage 1
Birth – age 8
Learning about hemophilia and how it is treated and managed
Stage 2
Ages 9 – 13
Adapting to rapid growth and developing key skills
Stage 3
Ages 14 – 19
Learning new roles and responsibilities for adult independence
But what happens next?
When a child is on their way to becoming an adult, the Canadian Hemophilia Society refers to this time as the
transition to adult care.
It is the coordinated transfer of a patient from child health services to adult health services.
Whenever there is a change, there can be a lot of questions. Let’s have look at some of the most common ones to help you and your child on this journey.
How does care change with the transition to an adult hemophilia  program?
Focus is on the child and parents
Treatment and care is adapted to each child’s development
Care team works with the family as a whole
Focus is on adult health needs and medical issues
Care team works directly with the person with hemophilia
At the appropriate time, the pediatric care team will guide the family through the transition to an adult hemophilia program.
When does the transition to adulthood and adult care begin?
Factors that influence the timing of the transition to adulthood include:
and skills
with the care
Ability to
make decisions
Necessity to
transfer to
another program,
clinic, or hospital
What are some transitional challenges?
During adolescence, a young person with hemophilia must deal with all the typical changes associated with this phase in life:
Forming significant relationships with peers and/or romantic partners
Choosing a profession
Moving out of the home
In addition, the person transitioning to adult care needs to accept increasing and ultimately full responsibility for managing their condition.
Responsibilities include:
Maintaining adherence to
treatment away
from home
navigating the
system for the
first time
Unfortunately, adherence to treatment is generally low during the transition to adult care.
Why is treatment adherence so important?
Lack of adherence can lead to:
Recurrent joint bleeds
Reduced quality of life
Chronic pain
Potential reasons for nonadherence during the transition from adolescence to adulthood
The WFH has identified the following
Barriers to treatment adherence commonly found in adolescents:
Social issues
Lack of family and peer support
Reduced parental supervision
Lack of trust with new medical team
Interference with lifestyle (e.g., travel, sport)
Lack of disclosure
Emotional and developmental issues
Rebellion against regimented treatment
Poor decision-making
Developmentally immature
Developmental delay or disability resulting from intracranial hemorrhage
Practical issues
Inconvenience/scheduling barriers
Lack of time
Insurance issues
Poor organizational skills/remembering to take treatment
Reluctance to self-administer/poor venous access
Educational issues
Lack of knowledge about:
The benefits of treatment
The consequences of nonadherence
keys icon
Keys to a successful transition
A successful transition program should be responsive to the needs of the patient, the parents, and the healthcare providers.
Communication, collaboration, and preparation are the key elements for a successful transition program.
Good communication and collaboration should be established between the team, the person who is transitioning to adult care, and their family
Members of the adult care team should be skilled in counselling adolescents
Early planning, jointly with adolescent patients and parents, allows for a gradual shift in responsibilities
Ensures smooth navigation through the complexities and barriers to successful transition and treatment
Helps the transitioning person to be ready, able, and comfortable to take full responsibility for their condition and transition to adult care
The planning process should involve the person transitioning, their parents (or caregivers), as well as the pediatric and adult care teams
Patient education is an important aspect of the transition phase
Lack of knowledge about the benefits of treatment and the consequences of not taking treatment can lead to nonadherence
What can a parent do to help the transition?
Stay involved in the various aspects of your child’s health and medical care
Continue to dialogue at home and show an interest in their appointments
Encourage your child to take charge of their health and medical condition
Guide your child through all the tasks and responsibilities related to managing their hemophilia
Help them develop skills and confidence, and build independent relationships with the members of their care team
Assess their knowledge, skills, and progress as they near the time for transition
Contact your local chapter of the Canadian Hemophilia Society for the transition toolkit and information on orientation activities in your region.
Learn more about managing hemophilia A at different stages of your life

About the Author

Heather Bauman

Heather Bauman graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2005. She has been working in the bleeding disorder clinic for over 4 years.

Prior to this role, Heather worked in pediatric oncology and taught clinical courses for the Faculty of Nursing (University of Alberta) for 9 years. She serves on the Stollery Oncology/Hematology Quality Council and is a Western Nursing Representative for the Canadian Association of Nurses in Hemophilia Care (CANHC). For the past 3 years (pre-Covid), she has attended Camp Kindle (summer camp) with bleeding disorder patients. Her interests include tennis, snowboarding, and traveling.

† Based on the professional experience of the author.