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More thoughts on parents with ill adult children

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  October 3, 2012 07:03 AM

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images.jpegSometimes I feel that my readers are collaborators on my columns and blogs. They invariably e-mail me with perspectives and information I hadn't thought to include initially, and then I have the opportunity to incorporate those valuable additions here.

For example, after my recent column, When An Adult Child Is Ill, two readers offered insights I found especially interesting:

1) When an adult child is ill, and demands extra attention from his or her aging parents, siblings often suffer, too. Of course, adult siblings are likely to be helpful to a brother or sister suffering from an illness, and might feel guilty about feeling neglected (or feeing that their own kids are being neglected) by their parents when, after all, they're healthy, independent adults. But, as one parent of a mentally ill daughter wrote: "The issues of when to draw the line between helping and enabling can be very difficult, not only on parents, but siblings. After spending multiple years in helping [my daughter] stay alive due to her mental/emotional problems we realized that her sibling was unfortunately not getting the attention he needed."

Any individual's illness can throw an entire family's relationships out of balance, and family therapy is often helpful in moving through the anger, guilt, and conflicted feelings that can accompany illness.

2) Another reader pointed out that parents do not always have complete control over children's medical care, even when the children are under 18. The law recognizes the rights of "mature minors," those over 14 who can understand the consequences of their decisions, to refuse medical treatment in some cases.

Please keep writing to me--and collaborating with me!

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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