Caring for someone with mental illness can bring unique challenges.  It’s important to have an understanding of your loved one’s challenges and also how to take care of yourself while caring for your loved one that is affected with Mental Illness.  Maine-ly Elder Care has developed some tips to help you care for your loved one and help you better understand mental health disorders. 

  • The first thing you should do is educate yourself about mental illness.  It’s important to understand that a mental illness is a medical disorder not a character flaw or personal weakness.
  • Understand that Mental illness affects attitudes and beliefs.  They may say things such as “I’ll never feel better” it’s important to remind your loved one that these feeling are a result of the illness and they will get better with treatment. 
  • Medication Issues- Be prepared that there may be medication issues.  Encourage medication use, but be aware that they may resist.  There are many drug treatments for mental disorders, but they do come with side effects which are a problem for people.  Be respectful, but persistent in urging your loved one to take prescribed medication. 
  • Avoid relapse, by knowing the early signs of a relapse, such as depression, difficulty concentrating or withdrawal.
  • Recognize that you are powerless over Mental Illness, it is a real illness and you can’t fix it.  Just offer your support. 

There are specific things that you can do to support your loved one who has a mental illness and you can be an important role in helping them get better.  Here are some things you can do:

  • Tell them that you support them and won’t leave them.
  • Let them know that they are not broken, that they are the same person, but have an illness.
  • Help them get treatment.  Offer to drive them to appointments, and make sure they have their medications. 
  • Check in on them to make sure they are doing okay and following the treatment plan prescribed by their doctor or therapist. 
  • Offer to take care of a chore- whether it is to make dinner or to vacuum, sometimes the smallest thing can make a big difference. 
  • Ask the person what they need.  We are all different and just asking what they may need can go a long ways. 

As a caregiver of someone with mental illness it’s important to take care of yourself.  Here are some simple things to do to care for yourself:

  • Be sure to create boundaries. 
  • Pick reasonable things that you can do for your loved one.
  • Remember that no one can do it all and your support doesn’t have to be perfect to be a tremendous help.

Mental illness can affect those diagnosed with it and their loved ones, it’s important to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings.  

˜Denise Stevens RN

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