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When parents need counselling

Posted: January 16, 2011

I have often blogged about dealing with mental illness since I have had to interact with one such person myself in the early years of my marriage. I have witnessed the agony of parents of such people and have felt like forgiving them for any misbehavior on their part since they are usually unable to do much to help their wards lead a near normal life. I do not blame them at all but I do feel that counseling may actually help them to deal with the condition.

R .. was diagnosed schizophrenic and had to resign from his job as coin note examiner in the Reserve Bank of India since he could not cope with the stress that the job offered along with a decent pay slip. His father tried everything in his capacity to give him medical treatment. His funds dwindled, gold and silverware pawned or sold but the boy showed no signs of improvement. He could just not be trusted to live on his own in Chennai where he worked. Giving up a lucrative job was the only option left. He was given medicines as prescribed by the doctor but taking him for regular check ups or regulating the dosage as per his condition was not done. Monetary constraints did not permit his parents to buy the full dose prescribed by the doctor and he d go without medicines for several days in a month for the same reason. As was expected his condition deteriorated and nothing could be done.

However there was one thing that his father could have done. No, I do not mean to criticize him since I may have done the same had I been in his place. R .. was offered a job in a hospital canteen. All he had to do was to wipe the plates and cutlery after they were washed and stack them in the racks meant for them. He would be trained for other odd jobs involving more responsibility later. He could naturally not be given any job that required some accountability from day one. Apart from a nominal salary with a decent annual incentive, he would have been entitled to free medical aid as well as pension and other retirement benefits. A father s heart is naturally prejudiced and R s father was no exception. He turned down the offer saying that his son, an ex-bank employee needed to be given a respectable job. Wiping plated used by patients was certainly not what he had in mind for his son. I often wondered if it was wrong on his father s part to decline the best possible offer that could have been made to him.

K .. is a handsome young man in his early thirties diagnosed with a mental disorder. His parents have no financial constraints and are doing their best to deal with his condition. They ve got his condition checked by eminent psychiatrists. The advice they get from them is pretty much the same. He needs to be treated as an out patient for at least six months, if not more, for his condition to improve. His parents find it impractical to wind up their establishment and relocate to a place like Chennai or Bangalore to pursue a treatment that may or may not fetch the desired result. They have resigned to fate and seek solace in spiritual discourses and religious texts.

It is not a pleasant task to offer advice to parents of mentally afflicted children. Each case is different and what may be appropriate for one may not be suitable for another. But as parents one has to take a decision that is in their ward s favor however difficult or distasteful it may be to them. Neither siblings nor relatives can be expected to be as concerned once the parents pass on. It is for this reason that I feel that they ought to be counseled and convinced that harsh decisions have to be taken keeping the long term interest of their child s welfare in mind.

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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  1. Its like even if the medicine is bitter one has to take it.parents also will have to think of long term solutions, once theya re no more who will look after their wards? so the arrangements have to be made with that direction in mind.

  2. These days there are excellent medicines available that contain the symptoms and also aid in recovery. One of the key factors for aiding the process of recovery for an illness like schizophrenia is occupation. Frequent and regular monitoring in the early stages is critical since it helps in adjusting the dosage of the medicine. I personally know of a couple of people who have made significant prognosis and are leading a normal life. If you can, my request to you would be to convince the parents that there has been great progress with regards to medicines for schizophrenia and help that is available. If they can invest a few months or a year, they can truly help their children get better

  3. Renu:Difficult it may be but one has to realize that his/her life is short and setting personal sentiments aside a mentally challenged person need to be trained to make himself useful and to be able to manage at lease 60% of his daily routine on his own. True, a parent feels bad at the thought of the child being made to do work that does not befit his/her status. but isn’t that better than letting him go without any support after their days are done?

    Chitra:You are right. I tried talking to parents of the second boy and will try again. They have to realize that they won’t live for ever.

  4. Whether it’s mental of physical disabilities that someone has to deal with all their lives, it is certainly upto the parents to realise that what matters is that their child can and must learn to live as independently as possible, as an adult. As you say, the parents cannot live forever. As Chitra has noted, psychiatric medicine has improved greatly and that combined with counselling where possible can be a big help.

  5. Susan: you are right but unfortunately parents are very touchy and suspicious when their handicapped child becomes a topic for discussion. I agree that there are a few gossip mongers and because of them they do not open up with anyone. The more it is discussed the better is the chance of arriving at a practical solution.

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