Caregiving is a frustrating and thankless job, especially when you are taking care of a mental health patient. Below are some ideas and advice for caregivers for mental health patients to help you undertake this most difficult of tasks.
The work of a caregiver is to help someone who cannot do all the essential daily activities on their own because of a chronic illness, old age, or severe injury.
The person who needs help may be a child, adult, or elderly person. Caregivers can be both formal as well as informal. Formal caregivers receive remuneration for their work, while informal caregivers can be family or friends.
In any case, it is a challenging task for any caregiver to take care of a mental health patient.
Many caregivers experience fear, anxiety, depression, and a high level of stress within a few months of taking care of a person with a mental health condition.
Research shows that one in three family caregivers have an emotional disorder. I do understand that it’s hard to see your loved one struggling with mental problems. Sometimes it will be difficult for you to know how to support your loved one.
But it’s important for you, as a family caregiver, to take care of your own health as well; unless you are fit yourself, you will certainly not be able to take good care of your ward.
This article gives some advice for caregivers of mental health patients, which may help you support your loved one. Please feel free to add to what we have to say in the comments section, based on your own experience. We believe that more than anything, the community is what helps support caregivers.
Nine Tips To Become An Effective Caregiver
#1. Ask For Help
You may be the primary caregiver of your loved one, who is, unfortunately, having a mental illness, but you don’t have to do all the essential duties on your own.
You can take the help of any of your family members, friends, or any professionals for help. When a friend or any of your family members says to you, ‘please let me know when you need help,’ then don’t turn them away out of politeness.
It may seem odd to you, but even the slightest help, such as essential shopping for the patient or driving the patient to the doctor, can be a big relief for you. Those couple of hours of downtime will help you keep going for the rest of the day.
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#2. Engage In Emotional Support
It’s normal to become frustrated or angry while taking care of your loved one with a mental problem. But don’t keep the feelings inside you. Try to share your feelings with other caregivers who can understand your feelings.
You can join support groups for caregivers for mentally ill patients. The group members can give you advice or encouragement, and more importantly, you get the feeling that you are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers various support groups. You can choose the right one for you and just go to the nearest meeting.
#3. Take Care Of Your Health
A poor diet will make you tired all day. You need to eat proper food, which will help you manage stress and improve your health. But don’t spend a lot of time cooking to cook good food. You can keep some healthy snacks and eat them whenever you like.
Try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables on each meal. But never eat chocolate or chips to fill your stomach.
Apart from proper food, you need to do regular physical exercise, which helps in busting stress and lifting your mood. Caregivers usually don’t have much time for themselves because the family’s needs are the priority.
But you need to find some time for yourself. Similarly, physical exercise will help in increasing mental health. Consequently, you will feel better. You can go for a walk with your loved one who is having mental problems. If they are confined to a wheelchair, it might help them to get out of the house as well.
If a regular walk is not possible, you can do yoga exercises and pranayama at home. It will relax both your body and mind.
#3. Have A Bit Of Fun
The best way to destress your mind is to have fun or do something which gives you enjoyment. For instance, you can read a novel or take a hot bath or talk with any of your friends or relatives or play with your pet.
#4. Take The Symptoms Of Mental Health Seriously
If you are dealing with depression or anxiety due to your daily life while taking care of your loved one who has a mental health condition, try to talk to a doctor. The doctor may recommend you for counseling or prescribe medicines that will help relax your mind.
#5. Have Proper Sleep
Proper sleep is vital for the caregiver because it helps in boosting the immune system and improves health. But sleep is often short for a caregiver while taking care of a mental health patient—improper sleep may often lead to poor decisions.
So, if you cannot have a good sleep during the night, then try to sleep for a few hours in the daytime, which will complete your sleeping hours and feel better.
#6. Get Educated
If your loved one is diagnosed with a mental health problem, one of your essential duties is to collect information about the particular ailment, its symptoms, and side effects. You can collect information by talking with any of your friends, relatives, or the several support groups we talked about.
If there is no other resource available, you can always learn by searching on the internet or speaking to a professional about it. It will surely make you better prepared to take care of your loved one.
For instance, if your loved one is taking medicine, you need to know the side effects of the medicine as a caregiver. It will help you in realizing the physical changes in the patient body or behaviors.
If you notice any side effects that are dangerous for the patient, like dark stool, frequent diarrhoea, seizure, suicidal thoughts, it’s best to call the doctor.
Another important thing is that you need to permanently save the emergency numbers like the suicide prevention hotline on your mobile phone. You can call them immediately as per your need.
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#7. Try To Become A Friend
An individual with mental illness may feel isolated because his health is preventing him from doing all the daily routine work. One of the best ways to recover from mental illness is to have good friends or family members who genuinely love him.
I do understand that remaining close to a mental health patient all day is a tough nut to crack. But you need to understand that your loved one is going through hard times. They need someone who will laugh or have fun with them and accept them irrespective of their illness.
So, as a caregiver, you need to love him and treat the person with a mental health condition as your best friend. Try to show patience and caring while talking with them but try to set some limits. You should not try to hurt the patient physically as well as emotionally.
This tip is a bit scary for the caregiver, but believe me, giving freedom to the person with a mental health condition in a few matters will only help the patient recover more quickly.
You need to give them the freedom to choose what to eat, where to live, whom to talk to, or allow them to do the work which they want to do.
When an individual starts to control their lives in a small way, it helps in improving their mental health as well as enhances their outlook of life.
#9. Balance Your Life
I do understand that balancing the life of a caregiver is a bit difficult. But you need to find some time for yourself while taking care of your loved one.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1. How do you care for someone with mental illness?
You need to show patience and caring to the person with mental illness. Try not to be judgmental of their thoughts and actions. Don’t disregard or challenge the feelings of the person.
#2. What are some of the difficulties that a caregiver may face in caring for a mentally disabled person?
The caregivers who care for a mental illness patient become overstressed, anxiously depressed within a few days. Indirectly caring for a person with a mental health condition affects the physical and mental health of the patient.
#3. What qualities should a good caregiver possess?
A good quality caregiver should possess the following things. They are as follows.
- Willingness to set boundaries
- Able to accept any help from friends and family members
#4. What is the biggest challenge for you when working as a caregiver?
The biggest challenge for a caregiver is isolation. The caregiver spends most of the time and energy caring for others. They have very little time for themselves. So if you are a caregiver and feel isolated, it’s best to talk to your friends or any family members to help you.
I will advise you not to cut off any relations with the outside world. Find some time for yourself so that you are active both physically and mentally. Even that will make you a better caregiver.
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A caregiver requires a lot of energy, empathy, and patience to treat a mental illness patient. Apart from it, he has faced a few challenges, like he has to spend most of the time with the patient and assist him in brushing, bathing, giving medicines, and various others, which can be stressful. The caregiver may feel isolated and often feel that he has no relation with the outside world.
Well, you can follow the above tips for being an effective caregiver and fit physically and mentally to better take care of your loved one who is, unfortunately, suffering from mental illness.
I hope the article is informative and please don’t forget to share any suggestions for this article.