How to help a loved one through a mental illness

Learning that someone close to you has a serious illness is a scary experience.

You may feel afraid, helpless, and alone, even a little disoriented. It’s hard to know how to handle the situation since it is likely that you have no training for this. Then you find that schedules are interrupted, roles may be reversed, and you may worry about your financial resources. All of this can be scary to patients, caregivers, spouses, children, and anyone involved with the person who has been diagnosed. You are dealing with strong emotions and may be reluctant to share thoughts and feelings with others, not wanting to burden them.

Steps you can take to help if you are the caregiver of a seriously ill loved one

  1. Become informed about the disease. Learn as much as you can regarding the illness, the treatment plan, what procedures will take place, what medication will be used, and likely side effects. Knowing more about what you are dealing with can decrease your anxiety.
  2. Get help. Caregiving is not a one-person job. Gather resources and make lists of who you can call to watch your kids, fill in for you at work, pick up groceries, and so on. Make a list of people to call in case of emergencies. Make a realistic assessment of what you can and cannot handle at home. Don’t expect to be everything to everybody. Delegate.
  3. If you are alone without help, and can’t afford a private nurse, talk to a hospital social worker who may have access to other resources.
  4. Take care of yourself too. Find out how you can get someone to stay with the patient while you get out to shop, do errands, take a walk, have a meal with a friend, or go to a movie.
  5. Talk it out. Perhaps you have friends who are sympathetic and can lend support. Tell the important people in your life about your situation.
  6. If you feel overwhelmed call for professional help. It affords an opportunity to talk about personal reactions to what is going on, to get help managing your stress, and to have someone else share the emotional burden.

If you need to speak to a professional counsellor, don’t forget to get in touch with Psyche and Beyond.



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