Whether you’re caring for an adult child who, perhaps, you have always known would need your support throughout their life, or suddenly been faced with rearing a new generation, older age can be far from restful.
While we tend to assume that we will have to take care of an ageing parent or partner at some point in our lives, when you have a child with a disability, that care is lifelong.
Retirement is unlikely to hold any mystery – your responsibilities remain the same. Instead, your greatest concern is probably what will happen when you’re no longer able to care for your child.
While the National Disability Insurance Scheme promises to deliver a brighter, more sustainable future for people with a disability across Australia, personal planning is an important part of allaying fears.
The Department of Social Services’ Planning for the Future handbook is designed to ‘assist families to plan future arrangements for the ongoing care of their family member with disability that is positive, sustainable, flexible and fulfils the wishes of both the person with disability and their family where possible…Planning for the future is about taking steps now to put plans into place, and not just about when you are older and can no longer provide the level of care the person needs.’
More and more grandparents are being faced with the decision (if indeed they have any real choice in the matter) to become ‘second-generation’ parents. Motivated by love for their grandchild, and a desire to keep them out of foster care and connected with their birth families, the personal cost can be significant. So too can the rewards.
A 2010 study by the Social Policy Research Centre found that parent behaviour and emotional issues are the predominant reasons for grandparents taking on the care of grandchildren, with parent's drug or alcohol problems cited as the primary concern. Where you have ‘lost’ your child, through death, illness or estrangement, the chances are you’re wrestling with the burden of loss, the reality of starting anew with young children, and the need to help your grandchild with their own feelings.
The stress, physical and financial impact can be immense.
Centrelink’s Grandparent Advisers are available to provide advice on payments for which you may be eligible, but taking a break or finding sources of support may be your most pressing need. To find out more about respite options in your area, call your local family support service or the child protection authority in your state or territory - you can also find support groups for kinship carers all over Australia.
Carer Gateway is a national online and phone service that provides practical information and resources to support all carers.
The interactive service finder helps carers connect to local support services. To find out more phone 1800 422 737 (free call, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
National Seniors is passionate about providing information and resources that its members can use to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.
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