Taking care of someone with a serious mental health condition is a challenging job. Looking after a patient, especially for a longer term can lead to drastic effects on the life of a caregiver. At times, even caregivers are gripped by stress and anxiety, which can put their personal well-being at stake. Psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are characterized by mood swings, phases of mania and depression, and delusions, which can be extremely disruptive and can affect the personal and social life of an individual. Research has shown that caregiving for schizophrenia patients puts a high burden on the caregiver, probably due to the stigma attached to the disease, which results in fewer support groups.
In America, nearly one in five adults, or approximately 43.8 million adults, experience a mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Mental illnesses could range from a major depressive episode to a serious psychiatric ailment arising from a past trauma and brain imbalances due to certain mental issues.
Since the family caregivers have to go through numerous behavioral and emotional challenges, they are at an increased risk for developing mental disorders, as per the American Psychological Association (APA). While depression is the most common problem among caregivers, anxiety attacks and sleep problems can also disrupt their day-to-day life.
Most caregivers also experience feelings of guilt because they consider themselves incapable of helping their loved one in combating the pain and suffering. Often, guilt coexists with other negative tendencies, such as incessant worrying and paranoia, which can be difficult to deal with. Among the greatest challenges for family caregivers, they get very little or no external help for their own struggles and problems associated with caregiving.
The National Mental Health Awareness Month, observed every year in May, attempts to raise awareness about mental health issues and the stigma attached to it. However, it also signifies the importance of a caregiver who can be equally prone to develop such mental health problems. It is time that support groups should be made available for a family caregiver so that he or she can get counseling and therapy sessions to come out of the trauma of seeing their loved ones fight the mental illness battle.
Role of a caregiver: Limitations and roadblocks
Research shows that in case caregiving services are performed at home, a patient with moderate dementia can defer placement to a nursing home by 1.5 years. The physical and emotional support provided by family members not only helps patients to forget the pain and sorrow, but also encourages them to be well informed about their illness. Most caregivers have multiple roles to play, starting from feeding medications to the patients to bearing with their frequent outbursts.
Thus, caregivers need to be aware of the limitations and the roadblocks that can hinder their loved ones to recuperate from the illnesses. For example, the decline in cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients can be difficult to handle at home and shifting to a nursing facility becomes the only alternative. In such circumstances, it is necessary to avoid the guilt and the feeling of not having done enough. It is also essential that caregivers find time to take care of their own health. Having a close support group and educating oneself about the diseases can help them lead a productive life.
Road to recovery
In the course of taking care of the patient, the caregiver frequently experiences stress and anxiety. He or she also develops coping strategies, such as smoking or substance abuse, which could lead to drastic consequences in the long run. However, the caregiver burden can be greatly eased if one seeks professional help. A health care expert can help a person in developing healthy coping strategies.
If you or a loved one is suffering from any mental illness, get in touch with the Florida Mental Health Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 to get advice on the best mental disorder treatment in Florida. You can also chat online with our experts about the best rehab facilities in Florida. Our helpful staff will work with you to determine the best treatment plan that works within your budget.