I recently had a conversation with a representative of Bupa, a United Kingdom, Edinburgh based healthcare service. Our discussion was about caregivers and the challenges they face. They offered to write an article for Caregivers, Family, & Friends, and I said “yes.” Bupa offers us tips below on how to care for ourselves as caretakers of individuals who are ill.
“Bupa is an international healthcare group, we serve over 14-million customers in more than 190 countries. We offer personal and company-financed health insurance and medical subscription products, run hospitals, provide workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and chronic disease management services. We are also an international provider of nursing and residential care for elderly people.”
Being a carer for someone with a mental illness can pose some unique challenges. Read on to find out more about how to cope and how to look after your own mental health…
Being a carer for someone with a mental illness can be tough and at times unpredictable. Symptoms can vary and change over time leaving you wondering if you can continue to cope. Although being a carer is always challenging and can make large demands on your time, energy and emotional strength, it can also be one of the most rewarding things you can do. Just make sure you keep an eye on how you’re feeling too. There are lots of ways you as a carer are likely to need support: emotional support, help to take a break, financial support and practical help around the home.
It’s quite common for carers of people with mental health issues to become the centre of that person’s world. A symptom of mental health problems is an increasing insularity, becoming cut off from the world outside and losing interest in friends and activities. As a carer you may be one of the only people that they come into contact with and so it’s natural that they will come to rely heavily on you.
However, this can be tough on you. It’s important that you keep up your own social activities. Make sure you’re clear about what you can and can’t do for the person you are caring for. If you find that you’re doing too much then reach out and see if there’s any possibility of sharing the responsibility with someone else or if a care home is a viable option. After all if you end up too tired and stressed out to help the person you care for, it won’t help either of you. Remember that you can always talk to your GP (General Practitioner) about how the role of carer is affecting you.
If you are starting to feel that caring is becoming stressful then one of the best things you can do is talk to other people in the same boat as you. There are a lot of support groups across the UK and some that are just for people caring for someone with a mental illness. Try getting in touch with Carers Direct on their Free phone number (0808 802 0202). You can call between 8am-9pm during the week and 11am-4pm at the weekend or on a bank holiday. Or mental health charity Rethink also offer carer support services.
The people you will speak to at these places completely understand the challenges you are facing. Often people can unfairly stigmatise mental health conditions making it hard to talk openly about what you’re going through. By getting in touch with people in a similar situation to yourself you’ll be sure of finding an understanding ear.
Keeping up friendships is a vital way of taking a break from caring and of course who else but your friends will listen without judgement, let you cry, make you laugh and pick you back up again? Getting out and about will also help you relax and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to be the best carer you can be.
Do you have any advice for carers supporting someone with a mental illness?
Thank you very much for your contribution and for enlightening our readers to the importance of self-care. Self-care is extremely important for caregivers or carers who are living each day trying to support a loved one with a severe or untreated mental health condition. It can be one of the most stressful tasks for families. I encourage all caretakers to not only engage in self-care, but seek support through therapy.
It’s always great to have contributors who drive important points home about some of the most overlooked aspects of our lives. So thank you again!
All the best
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Last reviewed: 13 Nov 2013