It's National Caregiver Month! The month of November is used to create awareness for the Caregiver. Our focus is on the Mental Health Family Caregiver. A Family Caregiver is someone who assists in the care of someone with a long term illness, long term medical condition, disability or mental health condition. So a Mental Health Family Caregiver is someone who cares for someone with a mental health condition.
Life As A Mental Health Family Caregiver
As a Mental Health Family Caregiver you experience a range of emotions and responsibilities during the course of your day. Depending on the diagnosis of your loved one you are helping them to manage the symptoms ranging from depression, mania, or psychosis. As taxing as it can be for your loved one, it can be equally taxing for you.
Out of all of the mental health conditions mental health family caregivers of Schizophrenia are the most at risk. Because a loved one may spend a great deal of time in psychosis anchoring their loved one to the world they live in is a daily challenge. A mental health family caregiver, as you could imagine, could wind up mentally and emotionally spent by the end of the day. Schizophrenia family caregivers are also at risk for becoming secondary patients as the lines between reality and their loved ones psychosis can sometimes blurr, which is why outside social interaction with friends and a support group is strongly recommended.
Many times when doctors or psychiatrist see the patient they don't engage directly with the family caregiver which could be of great benefit to the loved ones recovery; family caregivers who are not emotionally or mentally sound cannot be of real assistance to their loved ones. When you are taking your loved one to their appointments and your loved one has given you the permission to speak with the psychiatrist or therapist, ask if you can make an appointment that includes you in the session or if the psychiatrist would see you separately. Having an active input in the sessions gives incite to the psychiatrist as to the family dynamics and how to help strategically incorporate coping/behavioral skills to ease any tension in the home. (See: Helping A Loved One With Mental Illness: A Doctor & Mother's Perspective")
Being proactive instead of reactive is a trait many family caregivers must cultivate. If you use preventitive measures and practice self care as well it makes for a more pleasant journey. Not a perfect bumpy free journey but one less stressful.
How Does Self Care Apply
When you take time out for yourself you are telling yourself that you matter. Many times our loved ones aren't able to, or just don't tell us how much we are helping them. What is important is to remember our why. Why did we choose to care for our loved one instead of leaving the responsibility to someone else? That reason is as unique as each individual family caregivers journey.
Self care ensures you will be in your best possible spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional shape possible. When you feel good you can handle stress better. When you have the right tools you can adapt easily. Of all of the stressors you will encounter throughout your caregiving journey don't let feeling poorly be another one of them.
How do I Self Care?
There are many ways to Self Care you have to try out as many as possible to discover what is the best method for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. A spiritual foundation is a great start. Meditation and prayer are great ways to practice a spiritual life.
2. Mindfulness another form of meditation but much more deliberate as it has been shown as an effective treatment for anxiety.
3. Make and keep your yearly physical exams. Make sure to have your doctor do a panel to check your vitamin B levels and your vitamin D levels as well as any other hormonal levels.
4. Eat a healthy diet
6. Go to sleep on a regular schedule and discuss any problems with your Primary Care Physician
6.Get a referral to a great Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT), or Psychologist.
7.Keep a gratitude journal and life journal.
8.Create a Care Binder for your loved one. You are able to keep a diary of days when they are symptomatic and what helped and what didn't.
9. Research the illness for your loved one become familiar with what the symptoms are and how to help when they are symptomatic.
10. Take up a hobby. If you don't have one, get one.
11. Take your breaks. Schedule them on an alert or alarm system using your smart phone or a kitchen timer.
12. Use respite care before you really need it. By doing so your loved one becomes familiar with the professional caregiver and you are at ease when leaving them to care for your loved one. (If you can enlist the help of family, friends, and neighbors who can help as well in the event your professional caregiver can't make it or no longer works for the company)
13. Plan ahead where you can and where you can't plan than plan to think in a positive mindset about it.
14. Accept that there will be good days that end and bad days that end.
15. Keep your social life in tact. If you don't have one get one. A support group is good, but you need friends offsite as well...can include your support group buddies going for lunch :)
16. Remember you are human you will make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
17. Be grateful for your good times and your bad times
18. Remember as difficult as this journey is for you, your loved one is living it even more personally.
19. Remember your why.
20. Remember to just BE sometimes.
Your mental health family caregiving journey can be as difficult or as manageable as you allow it to be. It's all in how you choose to view your journey. It is very difficult no one will ever deny that, but it is possible. Feel free to cruise our Resource page and learn of ways you can better see to the care of your loved one and for yourself. Remember, "Take A Break Or Take A Break" (#TakeABreakOrTakeABreak).
We continue honoring your service and dedication this National Caregiving Month. You deserve it. Thank you for what you do! #IAmLovedAndAppreciated
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