• La Shawn Splane-Wilburn

Caregiver Tool Kit: I Had To Quit My Job Now What?

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…Matthew 6: 27-29

Having to come home full time is a choice caregivers around the world make every day. It may be the pressure of trying to find good in home care, a loved one lives too far away and the caregiver has to travel great distances to work, the caregiver may have no real family support or other resources to help take the added pressure off of caregiving and thus wind up making a very difficult decision to leave full time employment temporarily to invest time in looking for help or resign to take on the task of full time caregiving.

Whatever the reason a mental health family caregiver faces great stress and great turmoil in making a decision to leave their full time job. Some caregivers have had such a negative impact on their health from the stress of holding a full time job and the additional stresses that caregiving can cause that their doctors recommend they hire help or get a job with less responsibility.

Studies show that many professionals in the work place care for aging parents especially those whose parents were part of the baby boomers. We are seeing and increase in the amount of caregivers who are now having the responsibility of caring for aging relatives and the added pressure of an ever changing ever demanding work force. How do we as caregivers maintain our sanity during what can be one of the most challenging life commitments there are?

I want to first commend you mental health caregivers who are embarking on this journey with your loved one, it is a difficult one and one requiring self sacrifice and many people don't take the responsibility of doing so but leave the duties to other family members or to no one at all. There are so many loved ones who wind up in state facilities or hospice because no one will step up to the plate for them.

There are so many different mental health family caregivers who are in the trenches everyday with their loved one and not many people stop to consider this fact, at least not until it hits their house. So many loved ones have mental health challenges and are treated as if they are responsible for their illness, in fact those who suffer from mental health disorders are one of the most stigmatized groups there are because many people don't consider mental illness a real and valid illness. Mental Health Family Caregivers are one of the caregiver groups that receive the least amount of empathy and support. Most people are not even aware they exist.

Some examples are but not limited to:

  • Mental Health Family Caregivers who care for young children with mental health diagnosis which require full time management like psychosis, schizophrenia, or excessive self harming as a result of stemming from autism, an example being a child who beats them self against the head or slams their head into anything available and causes extreme physical damage to themselves.

  • Mental Health Family Caregivers who care for spouses with a sudden onset of a mental health disorder like a loved one returning from active duty, a loved one who suffered a great trauma like a car accident or victim of crime, or a loved one who has worsened due to an addiction or a relapse.

  • Mental Health Family Caregivers who are responsible for elderly loved ones with dementia who must have around the clock care because they are no longer able to live alone, they may be ambulatory but unable to remember they are cooking on the stove or wonder away from home; bed ridden and unable to feed or clothe themselves or eliminate on themselves requiring diaper changes.

  • Survivors who have worsened with their mental health disorder due to stress, relapse, or another health condition which can cause triggering and the survivor find themselves once again struggling with a new diagnosis and unable to function at a full time job any longer.

All of those scenarios are instances where caregivers or survivors may find themselves suddenly at a place in their lives where not having a job can cause even more stress, marital strain, or the possibility of becoming homeless with their loved ones or they themselves needing somewhere to live that is cheaper or no cost at all.

In a perfect world we are able to tap into our savings but in an economy where many families are just at their beginning stages of building up a savings again the possiblity of not having a job can place them on the road to homelessness. That is a very terrifying thought and adds to the struggle of getting better and keeping the family together.

Depending on where you live there are programs in place to help families to get through what could be very difficult times for them:

Church: Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have a church with a health ministry and because we have been obedient and tithed what we had to help build the store house there is an available resource pool at our church to draw from. Sometimes there isn't a mental health ministry in our church and we may meet resistance while caring for a loved one with a mental health disorder. Understand there are stigmas that exist outside of the church as well, and the church is just now coming around to realizing that mental health is a real health challenge with all of the new research and brain scans. You can also ask your church leadership about asking the members to take up an offering to help your family through a difficult time. This is not the time for pride. Pride will only delay your progress. You can always start a mental health ministry with the blessing of your church too...or you can find a church that understands the needs of a family with a mental health challenge and can spiritually support the family as well.

Social Services (DPSS)/Health & Human Services: These are government programs which help families who are low income with things such as medical insurance, money for food, money for housing, utility bills, transportation, and sometimes cell phones. Because a family has to have limited to no assets this is normally not a program that benefits the caregiver and their loved one because of all of the stipulations and criteria they don't meet. Sometimes the loved one may qualify for the program only which is still a load off of the caregiver worrying how to pay for mental health care for the loved one.

Public Health/Mental Health Organizations: Public Health facilities sometimes offer low to no cost alternatives to families who are low income or individuals who are low income. Mental health assistance may or may not be offered depending on where you live, but asking about what programs your loved one or your family may qualify for is a great way to get access to assistance that could benefit your family and take the pressure off. Mental health organizations can help with other resources like family counseling, assisted living facilities, addiction counseling, caregiver and survivor support groups.

Non Profit Organizations for Mental Health: Non profit organizations in your area may have access to or may provide case managers who can assist your family in locating resources to help you during this time of need due to job loss, counseling services low to no cost, assistance with food, shelter, or addiction counseling services, as well as support groups for caregivers and survivors.

Innovation/Creativity: Sometimes a family has enough saving to meet their household obligations but require more money for medical bills or for other emergency's that can come up. Sometimes a family doesn't have access to many resources or chooses not to take advantage of the resources because of cultural beliefs or religious beliefs. A family may still need more money to cover medical bills or to get a new place to live if they are unable to get assistance with housing or housing help, Maybe the family doesn't want to take "hand outs" but need to generate an income to keep the family in their home or to pay for medical expenses, food, transportation and cell phone for emergency calls. What is another option:

  • Starting a small business -What are you good at? Can you create a business for it? Baking can become a bakery business, there are social media sites to use to showcase your talent and you can always stand outside your local grocery store or get a spot at your local farmers market...don't have one? Create one.

  • Bartering - Do you have skills you can trade for the skills of someone else? Are you good with repairing engines or machines? Are there small businesses in your area who could benefit from a field service engineer or Field service tech who could provide something you need in exchange? You will never know until you ask.

  • Researching - or watching Youtube videos to learn to do repairs, stretch your dollar, a new trade or creative ways you can modify your household to live on less than what your income is.

Downsizing - Sometimes the answer is in surrender. Many times a family will continue to live as they did before the mental health diagnosis with the new reality and it just doesn't fit. It's comparable to trying to fit into old clothes when you have lost a tremendous amount of weight, they no longer fit and look proper. Holding on to a large home, multiple cars, and other expensive items only add to your stress trying to maintain them. Letting go of or sale things in order to build reserves for this journey is sometimes the only realistic answer. Most times you will find how much more quality your life has as a result of having less material things to manage.

One of the most liberating things we experience as caregivers and survivors is when we learn to live a truly authentic life without the pressures of being perfect or maintaining an image of a perfect life. Our quality of life goes up in areas we once thought impossible. How is it possible to live with less many wonder, but after realizing how much less stress happens and how much more energy they have to direct to getting better or being a better support to a loved one there is a new found freedom.

Our family had to adjust to one income, less vacations, and less material pleasures but God provided everything we needed, we didn't want and our stress about material things went way down. In the beginning there was great stress and lots of crying and whining about not having this or that, but as time went on we adjusted to our new way of living and our lives were enriched more fully with love on a whole new scale.

This journey sometimes requires a great deal of sacrifice in the beginning but the pay out in the end is priceless. It will all come back to you but you will respect it differently, you will understand the true meaning of family and the amount of love required to love someone back to being whole.

May today bless us with whatever makes us successful, and may God bless us real good

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