When The Mental Health Patient is Someone You Love

It can be exhausting and challenging to care for a loved one with a mental health concern. You might not know exactly what to do or how to do it, but you love the patient and want to help. This can obviously take its toll on your own mental health, so it’s essential to take steps to understand and know how best to help and maintain your own well-being when the mental health patient is someone you love.

If you’ve just begun caring for a loved one, you’re undoubtedly learning a lot “on the job.” However, there are many people that have done this before and have figured some things out. You don’t have to recreate the wheel!

Gathering Information

It’s important to learn about your loved one’s mental health condition, how it affects them and how it influences the way they see the world. Understanding the mental health condition can help you anticipate their needs and feel confident managing notable events and everyday tasks compassionately and effectively.

Get the names and contact info of your loved one’s doctors. Don’t be afraid to call when you have questions. Keep in mind that they may  not be able to discuss certain patient-specific information unless you have legal powers or written consent from the patient. However,  they may be able to share general information to guide you.

Focus on your relationship.

Try to spend quality time with each other by doing activities you enjoy together. This serves several purposes:

  • Promotes positive interactions so that negative ones aren’t the only ones you share with this person
  • Can promote self-worth and happiness in both of you
  • Enhances the emotional bond, so you can connect and help this person during rough times

Take one day at a time. Tell stories and talk about hopes and dreams. At the same time, receive what’s happening now as it is. Your loved one may be having a good day with positive interactions, receive it. The next day may be different. Each day is its own experience and does not necessarily have to influence a future day.

Consider how and what to communicate with  family. Certain things you two share may be best kept between you. In other cases, the family needs to know. You know your loved one and your family better than anyone, so making these calls without guilt or apprehension is okay.

Talk to your employer. Some companies offer reduced hours or flex schedules for those who are caring for a family member, and yes, this includes mental health. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA ) allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and it protects your job, but you must apply for this protection. You can take this time continuously or as needed if your loved one’s needs are unpredictable.

Caring For Yourself

Get help. If friends or neighbors offer – say “yes”. You don’t have to do it all. Many of us think we’re the only ones who can take care of our loved one, but this is usually not the case. Others can help in some capacity, even if that involves helping while you’re in the next room.

Take a break. Read a book, go for a walk, meditate – whatever it is that refreshes you. Something very interesting happens to “time” when people take the “me time” they need. Actively relaxing will help you have more energy for yourself and others. Often, days run more smoothly because you’re not experiencing physical or emotional exhaustion.

Take care of your own mental health. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well. Give yourself a break. People who work all the time are less productive. That includes caring for others.

Seek Out Additional Resources

Jonas Hill is here to help patients and loved ones. We listen and recognize this is often as challenging for you as it is for your loved one. Our Outpatient Clinic houses behavioral health clinicians and providers. This includes a Family Resource Room for group therapy, family advocacy, and community education. Contact Us to learn more about how we can help.

 

Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information. A safe space to heal.

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