5 simple & helpful steps for caregivers of people with mental health issues


The number of people suffering due to mental health conditions is increasing day by day. We all know someone who is suffering from various mental health conditions. As caregiving family members, we often have no support or guidance on how to cope with a loved one going through a mental health condition. Coping through this situation gets extremely difficult for some of us who have no medical background.

In my teenage years, my late grandmother was ailing from a major depressive disorder. It was difficult to identify the depression symptoms due to lack of awareness about Mental Health issues. We were unable to to comprehend what was happening in her mind while she was dealing with this mental health disorder. It had further complicated due to other old age related health conditions. On seeing a loved family member going through the suffering in their golden years was upsetting and it took a huge toll on my parents and I. The most heart-breaking moment was when she lost her memory and would not recognize me. It was an eye opener which changed me forever. During those difficult times we had little to no guidance,awareness or support on how to cope as caregivers. I have been a banker for 26 years and do not have any medical background. My first-hand experience taught me some reliable methods that can help with both coping as well as ways to connect with the family member in need.

Caring for my grandmother

Here are the 5 steps which helped me while caring for my grandmother:

Timely Intervention – On noticing any early signs of disturbances or behavioral changes of our family member, we must seek help at once. Keep daily notes of changes in behavior or pattern of behavior will come handy while updating the doctors. It is not possible to remember everything, in this situation as it also takes a toll on us emotionally & physically.The sooner we get professional help the better are the chances of a speedy, significant and/or complete recovery. Early identification can also allow you to take the benefits of alternative therapies - homeopathic treatment, yoga, meditation and breathing techniques along with the prescribed medication.

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." -- Leo Tolstoy

Awareness: The ailing person does not necessarily want to share their problems. When they finally share their problems or issues with you it is very important to respect their trust. Trust yourself to be able to help & support them through these difficult times.

"Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of." --Bob Vanourek, author of Triple Crown Leadership

Spending quality time with the ailing person, attentively listening or talking to them will help us to better understand the reasons behind their emotional reactions of depression, sadness, self-pity, fear, anxiety and/or anger. This can be very overwhelming for the caregiving family members, do not hesitate to take professional help for yourself if required.

“Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourself.” Carl R. Rogers

Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourself

Practicing the art of listening will allow you to be more patient & tolerant. We all tend to run out of patience while interacting with people suffering from mental conditions. Some people are naturally more patient, for others, being patient takes a significant amount of effort. I too lacked patience initially, but it all changed on becoming aware & understanding that people with mental health conditions may react irrationally and are unable to always have control over their behaviors. Take support from immediate family members, this will reduce the pressure, allowing you to take regular breaks and rejuvenate yourself.

"Learning patience can be a difficult experience, but once conquered you will find life is easier." -- Catherine Pulsifer

Set daily routine: Often the smallest daily activity can become difficult for those ailing from a mental health condition. Look for the right opportunity to set small & achievable daily tasks which involve them. The activity should be achievable and act as a motivator, this will do wonders for their morale. Avoid rushing them to resume their old routine, it can be counterproductive if they are unable to carry out the task properly.

"You teach me, I forget. You show me, I remember. You involve me, I understand." ~ E. O. Wilson

Recognition - Recognition does wonders to everyone irrespective of how small or big achievements. Think about how you felt when someone praised or recognized you for a job well done. Recognition is a huge motivator & a morale booster. Similarly, recognizing their qualities, past achievements, strengths on a regular basis will boost their self-confidence which can triggers a positive reaction.

“Live to inspire, and one day people will say, because of you, I didn’t give up” – Unknown

Physical activities- Plan a daily physical activity to do together, go for a walk or even a drive. Find activities which bring you closer together. Depending on the physical condition take them for a swim or any sport which they can easily perform without causing any stress. Music plays wonders, it has a huge calming effect, play happy songs. Yoga, stretching, meditation & gardening are also extremely helpful.

Physical activities

“Physical activity is an excellent stress-buster and provides other health benefits as well. It also can improve your mood and self-image.”– Jon Wickham

Being self-aware of how to cope, conduct and interact with people with various mental health issues is a very important attribute to support each other. “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”– Maya Angelou

Let us share our life lessons to help each other. Namaste!

Author - Raakesh Desai

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