The Family Project: meds
Q. My 17-year-old niece has been living with depression for many years. She recently shared with me that she has been seeing a therapist, taking medication and is considering increasing the meds she takes because she likes them. When I was with her, her parents seemed to be “hovering,” so we couldn’t really talk. I am concerned that she is not getting all the information she needs about her medicine (she didn’t know dosage, etc.). I gave her my cell number and told her to text anytime, but I feel like I didn’t do enough. What else can I offer her?
The first question raised concerned whom the uncle should talk to first: the niece or her parents?
Panelist Chad Stefanyak said he would talk to the niece because she absolutely needs to know about the medication she’s taking. “At this point, it will be more and more her responsibility.”
Panelist Mike Daniels agreed that at age 17, the girl is old enough to take responsibility to know what medication she is taking, how often and what effect this may have on her body.
The concern, panelist Pam Wallace continued, should be what else she might start taking, or that she might be mixing her meds with alcohol.
“Even food can interact with drugs,” panelist Denise Continenza added.
All agreed that if the niece thinks she wants or needs a higher dosage, she should go to her doctor to ask for an increase.
Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo asked if there was some way to reach out to the mother: “Someone else in the family should be concerned, as well.”
“My impression from the comment about ‘hovering’ is that the parents have been managing her care, and not giving the girl much responsibility,” Continenza said. “The uncle could get together with the parents and encourage them to start treating their daughter like an adult. When she is 18, they won’t be able to talk to the doctor about her treatment.”
The panelists expressed concern that the parents might be downplaying their daughter’s condition or trying to keep it under wraps because they worry about the stigma often associated with mental illness.
Daniels asked if the parents might actually be enabling the daughter, and concluded that he still favors going directly to talk to the niece, explaining, however, that “talking to the parents and to the girl do not have to be mutually exclusive. You don’t have to exclude the parents from the conversation with the child or vice-versa.”
Mercado-Arroyo suggested encouraging the girl to go to talk with a school counselor.
What else can the uncle offer his niece? “He can be a concerned adult, expressing interest and concern about his niece’s treatment,” Daniels responded. “He can also offer her his availability, while continuing to be a caring uncle.”
Continenza added that the uncle shouldn’t be disappointed if the girl doesn’t respond right away. “What’s important is that the uncle is reaching out and opening up a line of communication so the niece knows she can talk to him,” Wallace concluded.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, Educator and Former School Administrator; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Family Project weekly column is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.