Other members of the family

The family has changed markedly in the last 30 years. There are many more divorces so that the 'parents' involved in the care of a child or young person are frequently one natural parent and one step-parent. There are also many divorced mothers living alone with the young adult after all the siblings have gone. Although some have adapted very positively, others feel very lonely, particularly if there are no members of the wider family to share the care and, often more pressing, to share the worries. Grandparents are as important in families with a member with mental retardation as they are in ordinary families, although initially grandparents can become severely affected by the grief, take sides in attributing blame, or offer unsought advice. One mother described her mother as an enormous help because 'she was always behind me in every decision I took'. When no helpful grandparent is available, an older neighbour, another member of a parents group, or a teacher at the school or day centre could provide the sort of informal support that has proved to be so valuable.

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