What Can I Do to Help the One I Care for?
Though there is no cure for Bipolar I Disorder or schizophrenia, symptoms can be managed through a treatment plan. Your friend or relative will need to take medicine for a long time. Even if symptoms seem to disappear, he or she will still need to take medicine to stay that way. This may take a lot of support.
You are a part of the treatment team
The treatment team includes everyone who helps treat your loved one. Along with psychiatrists, nurses, case managers, social workers, psychologists, and therapists, as the caregiver, you are one of the essential members who make up this team.
As a caregiver, your role is just as important as that of any other team member. You are essential. You give much needed support, comfort, and stability to your loved one. There will be times when you will need to act on behalf of your loved one to ensure that he or she receives the best possible care.
You may also need to help your friend or relative stay with treatment. With the right encouragement, you can positively influence his or her treatment.
Taking care of yourself is important
When caring for someone who is ill, most of your efforts and energy go to giving the person the best possible support. Over time, this can take a huge emotional and physical toll on you. Through it all, it is important to remember to take care of yourself, too.
You may be feeling sad or scared. Or you may feel ashamed or angry. These and other feelings are normal. Once you recognize these feelings, develop some coping strategies to help you deal with your feelings. For example, do something you enjoy, focus more attention on someone else, or go to a support group.
It's also important to know when you are overwhelmed. This may cause you to lose perspective on your situation. It may affect your decision-making capabilities.
If you start feeling this way, take time out. Find a stress-relief program that works for you. Then try to stick to it.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Exercise at least 3 times a week. Simply taking a brisk walk at least 3 times a week has huge emotional and physical benefits. Be sure to check with your doctor before you start any exercise program
- Join a support group so you can be with people who understand what you're going through
- Try to get enough sleep
- Keep up your social life and any outside interests
There may be setbacks and uncertainties, but there is hope. Celebrate the small steps that your friend or relative takes in the recovery process. This will help motivate both of you. Remind yourself that you are doing something positive for your loved one. This can be a gratifying experience.
As a caregiver, it is important for you not to isolate yourself or try to handle everything on your own. Both you and the one you care for should remain close with family, friends, and the treatment team. They can help you with the overall treatment plan. Also, having someone to turn to can help you when times get tough.
The best thing you can do for your friend or relative is to find as much support as you can for both of you. By connecting with other families living with Bipolar I Disorder or schizophrenia, you can share the challenges of caring for someone with these illnesses. There are also counseling and support services for help throughout the treatment process.