Tips for caregivers

Tips for caregivers caring for a loved one battling a mental health illness

Caregivers are often under immense stress and pressure. They have the responsibility to care for a loved one, and to also take care of themselves. Dr Kedar Tilwe, consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund and Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi shares a few tips that can help.

Caregivers have a dual role to play

Often caregivers prioritise the needs of a loved one before their own. However, it’s vital that they strike a balance and meet the needs of a loved one without neglecting their own mental health. Here’s a guide that can help you support a loved one battling mental health issues.

Tips for those caring for a loved one

If you are caring for a family member battling a mental illness, it’s important to make a mental note that can help you cope with the stress and demands of this role.

  • Understand the illness

Enlist your treating psychiatrist’s help in learning about the illness. Find out more about its cause, its course, its prognosis, and the treatment options available. Most importantly, become aware of the behaviours associated with the illness and the cascade or reasons for it. Doing so will help you better understand, predict and deal with any potential meltdowns or relapses.

  • Identify the red flags

Almost every serious mental illness has a subtle prodrome associated with it. So, learn to preempt it by identifying precipitating signs. Lookout for indicators like sleep disturbances, irritability, intolerance to loud noises and an increase in alcohol or tobacco intake. Personal triggers such as a break-up, job loss, and loss of a loved one are also some of the stressors, which can lead to a worsening in symptoms. So, reach out to your psychiatrist at the earliest sign.

  • Locus of control

It’s emotionally draining for you if you try to micromanage each aspect of your loved one’s life and the resultant failure to do so can lead to feelings of resentment and hostility with the patient. So, focusing on things that you can take responsibility for like supervising medicines and accompanying the patient to doctor’s visit can give you a sense of realistic control and reduce the caregiver burden.

  • Take care of your own mental health

You can only care properly for your loved one if you are fit and healthy. Also, caregiver burden can cause feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and low frustration tolerance. If you feel distressed, discuss this with your loved ones, treating psychiatrist or reach out to a mental health helpline or support group.