The role of a carer for a mentally ill loved is many and varied and without doubt, a stressful one. There are stages of shock, disbelief, acceptance and then coping to deal with. If you are dealing with your caring role on a day to day basis then it is important that you learn as quick as you can, strategies to cope with various situations. There will be many different situations to deal with depending on the illness beng dealt with. Some illnesses can have the sufferer going through changing moods, paranoia, bad attitudes and more within minutes.
All these changes make it very hard for the carer to cope. As time goes along and you start experiencing repetition in the problems you can start looking for early warning signs of illness. By doing this you will be able to discuss these signs with the person with the lived experience during calmer moments. I have often heard it said, "But he/she is so ill I just cant discuss anything", and yes, at times this may be true. Keeping in mind the type of illness you are dealing with, there will more than likely be small windows of time where you will be able to open up some sort of discussion.
Sometimes these windows of opportunity are so small and there can be so many issues to be discussed, that you will have to prioritise them. Keeping a note of issues to be discussed can be very beneficial because when you are not trying to remember them as well as everything else it will relieve a certain amount of stress. A fairly easy to read sign, once you have seen it several times, is the harrowed look in their eyes which could be fear or exhaustion, or in the case of a person with bipolar it could be the opposite, in that they may be in a manic phase and look exhilarated. Early warning signs could range from agitation, pacing, yelling, isolation, not eating, total non-activity, hand signing or other signs depending on the illness involved. It is not difficult to notice these signs once you have seen them several times and it will allow you to deal with them sooner.
It could be medication that needs to be addressed,stress over a job, or appointment or whatever it is, but don't delay and if you can foresee trouble ahead you can get hold of doctors and counsellors for back up help. In the early days of caring life is often lived with the "it will get better soon" attitude, and this may be so for some people, but the reality is, that it may not. Because dealing with the whole situation can be so stressful try to plan ahead for doctors appointments by making notes of concerns you have and questions you want answers to, otherwise there is a good chance you will forget at the time. As a carer I would encourage you to work on coping strategies as much as helping your loved one. AND coping may mean making sure that you have an interest outside the family just for yourself alone and do it on a regular basis. At certain stages carers find release of stress going to carers support groups, or you just might like to continue a hobby, have a trip to the hairdressers, but do find something you enjoy as it is so important to look after yourself as well.
You are doing a very hard job and you deserve to be rewarded for it too! Copyright (c) 2008 Kaye Dennan.
Kaye Dennan is the author of an ebook Managing MENTAL ILLNESS ' Coping Strategies for the Carer. Kaye is a carer of 10 years and has been a Carers' Support group facilitator for 3 years. Her book can be instantly downloaded at http://ebooksnowonline.com/family/mental-illness-coping-strategies/ and she can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.