Adult children who lose a parent often suffer a “double whammy” to their mental and physical health — from the shock of the loss of both a parent and carer, according to GriefLine.
GriefLine volunteers are reporting a trend in calls from people who are aged 50 plus with a mental illness who find themselves in challenging circumstances once their main caregiver dies.
“Aging parental caregivers are the backbone of long-term support for adult children with mental illness, providing years of ongoing support. When they die, not only does the adult child lose a parent but also their main care giver,” Kathy Wells, GriefLine’s Manager Helpline and Bereavement Counsellor, said.
She said that GriefLine had become the go-to service for support and counselling, with volunteers taking the place of parents in many instances.
“It is a challenging role especially when adult children with a mental illness find themselves on a collision course with their siblings who want to sell the family home or who are not prepared to step into the caregiving role,” Ms Wells said.
Because it may be painful for ageing parents to think about what will happen to their adult child when they die, parents often avoid planning for the adult child’s continuing care. The complicated nature of estate planning for an adult child, which can involve government benefits and financial management, also contributes to avoidance.
GriefLine believes that this is an area for further research, as well as a community education campaign.