Advice for Caregivers of Mentally Ill Family Members.
I was reading an article today about a mother who was afraid her child would end up as a mass murder because she needed help with him and unable to get it. I was flabbergasted at some of the points of the article, but it made me realize to many people have no idea where to turn when thier loved ones start showing signs or of getting the help that is so desperately needed until damage is already done.
I was blessed to have found help as early as I did. I thank God every day for putting me in touch with the right people. That isn’t to say that everything was easy because it never is and I didn’t always get the help or answers I needed, but I have learned a lot. I’m taking the time right now to offer some words of wisdom from a parent who has been where you are and who is still traveling down the uncertain highways of caring for someone who suffers with a mental illness.
Number One: Seek help from a mental health agency. Don’t look just for a psychatrist, or just a therapist, or just a social worker, or just any one person. You need a team. I personally suggest a case manager to begin with. Our local Mental Health Center has an Intensive Youth Services department. My son has a case manager from there who not only works closely with my son and myself, but also there office has a staff meeting with the psychatrist and they go over all the kids’ files. This is a god sent for those days you find yourself calling the crisis line because the person calling you back may not know you personally but they know the case and how to direct you in the right direction. The psychatrist is kept up to date on what is going on to be able to say.. Hey get them in the office, or maybe we should try this instead. So when you do go to your appointment you don’t feel like you have to remember every little thing. These services will also help implement a safety plan/ or crisis plan and they will also set goals. Pick someone both you and your loved one are comfortable. If your not comfortable with who you got a assigned to don’t be afraid to say hey we need someone different. You need to be comfortable to tell them all your dark secrets. I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have these services for Joey.
Number Two Find some sort of support system. I can’t not stress enough how much this will mean to you as you go down this long road. It doesn’t matter if its a support group online or close friends and family. Just find a natural support system that you can count on. Thier will be days that you will need to bend an ear; either to vent or just ask for advice, or even a sounding board. There will be days you will offer to lend your ear to focus on another’s problem so that you might come back to your own later.
Number 3 Realize its a trial and error process. Every person is different and that include mental illness. Its a huge trial and error. One being diagnosis, your loved one may get a few diagnosis because he/ she fits them then as time goes on they are revised and changed. With new symptoms and with new research things are changing all the time. Another part of this is that you will problable go through lots of trials with medicines. Different people react with different medicines. Just make sure you are talking with your nurses and doctors about everything. Little things matter and sometimes those little things are the clues you need. A good thing to start is a journal so that you can see whether you are truly making progress or not.
Number 4 For the safety of the person, yourself, and other family members stick up for yourself and don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard. The best piece of advise I’ve ever recieved is “No one knows your child better than you” so if you no something is wrong don’t let others sweep it under the rug. Take the article I mentioned at the begining . The mother said her child was going after her with a knife threatening her. After she manuevered the situation to where she was in control, she took her son to the er. The er said he seemed calm they didn’t have a bed there and sent them home with a potent drug. Now I’ve been in a similar instance where my child was not safe. I was lucky I was told by the mental health proffession what to expect and what my rights were. That mother had the right to say ” my son needs help now. he needs placement. I know my hild and what he has gone through and what he is currently going through”. Even if the place doesn’t have a bed they must find a bed in another facility or atleast give you the numbers to other places. You have the right to recieve assisance and make sure you and all your family members are safe.
Number Five Remember you are human. I sometimes forget that I don’t have to be the strong one all the time. I forget its ok to lose it once in a while. The fact is there will be times where you will be frustrated, upset, angry, not sure if you can keep fighting, and having feeling of guilt. Its all perfectly normal. No one is going to look down on you for losing your cool or for asking for help. Just remember two things. One you are your loved one’s best advocate because no one cares more for that person. and Two on days that look very dark just think of all the good things that you have witnessed. All the challenges met and conquered. Realize that it will get routine. Some days better than other but you will find routine.
Number Six Utilize Coping skills. One of the best things for us is the use of coping skills. Coping skills can be anything. Utilize those things that help calm your loved one. One of the funniest for us is food. My son always starts getting upset when he is hungry, yet for some reason he won’t voice he’s hungry sometimes. So when I notice him getting agitated I offer him a snack. Another is for him to reorganize his cards. Anything that will calm the situation should be used as long as its not dangerous to someone
Well for tonight those are my words of wisdom. I know I will have more advice from things I’ve tried or have been taught but for now my brain is shutting down. Keep your head up. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.