Ageing parents seek a listening ear

An increasing number of ageing parents are calling GriefLine about the stress and worry that comes with looking after a child with poor mental health.

According to Kathy Wells, Manager Helpline & Bereavement Counsellor, the incidence of calls has increased over the year and appears to be spearheaded by the difficulty of receiving help when it is most needed.

She says that Mental Health Week is a good time for Australians to look at how mental illness as an issue is not only viewed but also delivered to those who need it.

“While there is a lot of money available in the mental health sector it is still hard to get help when you need it most”, said Ms Wells.

“It’s all very well having ten year plans, but when the cost of seeing a professional is $200 to $300 per hour it’s often only the wealthy that can get the support that is needed”.

She says that a difficulty facing many older parents is that once a patient is over 18 the treating doctors can’t talk with the parents about their child. Yet if you have a heart attack the doctor will talk openly about what is in the best interest of the patient with everyone”.

Kathy Wells said many of the calls reflected anxiety about what will happen to them as they grow older and have special needs

“Although accustomed to the challenges of caring for a child, ageing parents face additional difficulties, especially if they have not sought help at all,” she said.

“Aging parents are a hidden population in the mental health arena. They are unpaid and uncelebrated,” Kathy Wells said.

She commented that the amount of care provided to adults by their aging parents is so substantial that if parental caregivers suddenly stopped providing care, public programs could never handle the large population of adults with a severe and persistent mental illness.

One of the biggest problems for aging caregivers is dealing with symptoms associated with discontinuing medications. In addition to lack of compliance, which is a common issue, medications may be discontinued due to side effects, forgetting to refill prescriptions, financial hardship, and/or denial of insurance coverage. This increase in symptom severity adds to the high level of stress already experienced by aging caregivers.

“GriefLine offers some relief for older parental caregivers but there is plenty of scope for intervention within this particular group of people,” Kathy Wells said.


Pic: courtesy of caresearch