What Can Be Done About Caregiver Stress Associated With Caring For Someone With Mental Illness?
Caring for someone with mental illness has its unique forms of caregiver stress…
Karen sighed as she finished her tea.
It was time to head to the hospital. A few days ago her father developed a urinary tract infection; hospitalization was needed to treat the infection and adjust his medications.
Since she was a teenager, Karen has felt more like a parent than a child. Unexpected hospitalizations from seemingly minor illnesses leading to needing an adjustment in her father’s medications have become a part of caregiving.
The doctors seem stumped by her father’s illness. Although none of them will admit it. Each one seems to have his own diagnosis. After years of treatment, Karen wonders what is the point of making a diagnosis when it never seemed to change anything…
Feeling the weight of the world settling back on her shoulders, Karen grabbed her keys, cell phone and purse, heading for the door. Time to get her father discharged from the hospital. And Karen thought, perhaps there would be suggestions for help for Karen’s caregiving.She could always hope…
The stresses associated with giving care to someone with a mental illness can be unique. Fifty years ago many who are now cared for by family caregivers would have been institutionalized. Recently, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed guidelines to help provide support for those caregivers, as you can see from this article—
Mental illness: Helping the caregivers
By Ella Amir, Special to The Gazette June 30, 2013
MONTREAL – Who cares for the caregivers?
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has looked carefully at that question, and this week released guidelines intended to help provide support to those caring for family members who suffer from mental illness.
The 41 recommendations are aimed at all those involved in the system — from hospitals and policy-makers and governments to individual Canadians. This is a critical step in recognition of the $3.9 billion in savings to our health-care system that these family caregivers provide.
People with mental illness are finally starting to receive the attention, and respect, that they deserve. There is a growing recognition that recovery is possible, and that with access to the right treatments and supports, people with mental illness and their communities can flourish.
This same level of attention and respect, however, is not consistently provided to their families. Support for families to help them fulfill their caregiving responsibilities and sustain the integrity of their own well-being is hardly ever integrated into the health-care system. Families are often left to fend for themselves as they try to help their loved ones recover from mental illness and at the same time keep themselves afloat.
Caregiving is increasingly being recognized as an important experience for caregivers and care recipients alike, one that has important economic and social ramifications. However, most of the caregiving literature is focused on caring for the frail elderly; caregiving in the context of mental illness has not received its due attention, either in research or in practice.
A 2002 Health Canada survey of family caregivers that included those caring for adults with mental illness found that 2 per cent of the adult population (500,000 Canadians) provide care to a family member, friend or neighbour living with a serious illness.
Seventy per cent of all caregivers are women; 60 per cent are employed; 20 per cent provide care both to a person with a mental illness and to another ill or disabled person; and 47 per cent have been providing care for more than five years. If recent reports on the increasing prevalence of mental illness are an indication, we can expect these numbers to rise in the coming years.
The unpredictable nature of many mental illnesses, their longevity, the historical barriers to family involvement in the mental-health system, and the stigma that is still associated with mental illness can compromise the health of the family caregivers themselves.
Inadequate recognition and support often generate emotional, physical, financial and social burdens that can lead to chronic stress. When this happens, family caregivers are likely to become collateral casualties of mental illness.
Despite these obstacles, many family caregivers persist in attempting to fulfill a distinct and important role by providing support, advocating on behalf of the person suffering from mental illness, and contributing to his or her recovery. To fulfill their caregiving responsibilities effectively and to minimize the risk to their own well-being, family caregivers need ongoing access to information, guidance and support.
Recognizing the inadequacies in support services, the Mental Health Commission of Canada embarked on the first-ever project to create national guidelines in support of family caregivers of adults with mental-health problems. The guidelines take the form of 41 recommendations that acknowledge the challenges family caregivers face, and contain ideas for support that can mitigate the stressors associated with caregiving.
The guidelines — you can read them at mentalhealthcommission.ca — are intended to advise policy-makers and service providers in planning, implementing and evaluating mental-health-care services that recognize and address the unique needs of family caregivers. Given the significant role that caregivers play, the proportion of caregivers in the general population, and the ramifications associated with inadequate support for caregivers, there is an urgent need for proactive and immediate action. These guidelines are long overdue.
But the real challenge starts now, with their dissemination this week and a call for action to make sure that caregiver needs are fully recognized and properly addressed.
Ella Amir is executive director of Action on Mental Illness (AMI Québec) and chair of the steering committee of Mental Health Commission of Canada.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
Original source article:
Why is there increased caregiver stress with mental illness care?
Several reasons, including—
- The unpredicatibilty of many mental illnesses leading to sudden onsets of acute episodes, disrupting normal life—repeatedly…
- Mental illness is often a long term condition, needing care for years and even decades…
- Family caregivers may find themselves at odds with the health care system, and how it handles mental illness. Something as seemingly simple as getting an accurate history can be frustrated by confidentiality issues among other things…
- The stigma with its associated emotions and fears too often associated with mental illness…
- Not enough support or understanding for family caregivers leading to physical, emotional, financial and social strains and worries. And too often they remain unrecognized be both the caregiver and those who care about the caregiver.
Wondering what can be done?
These guidelines are much needed. They are, however guidelines mostly for professionals in planning.
They are a great place for planners to start. And while the wheels of change may turn slowly, caregivers often need help now.
Wondering where you can turn now?
Now there’s a solution that takes only a few minutes a day, making the caregiver’s life easier.
Help that’s available through the “Caregiver’s Heart Gold Membership”.
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From my heart to yours… Laugh Well, Love Well and Live Well!
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Founder, www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
Ambassador of Caregiving at www.HowToLiveOnPurpose.com