Mental illness can be a trying experience for anyone that has received a diagnosis, but what people may not realize is that it can also have a big impact on parents and loved ones that care for them.
In fact, caregivers for the mentally ill risk endangering their own health as they work hard to keep loved ones stable and healthy. Caregivers often work for years at a time without any support and they need more assistance to prevent the stresses of caring for someone with a mental illness.
When a person has such a severe mental illness that they cannot fully care for themselves it can be a lifelong struggle for everyone involved. Caregivers may sacrifice a lot to provide for their loved ones but they may not realize the negative impact that their role may have on their own mental and physical well-being.
Caring for Others without Support
A report by the National Alliance for Caregiving said that at least 8.4 million Americans care for an adult family member that is dealing with an emotional or mental health issue. Research has revealed that these caregivers provide an average of 32 hours of care a week, for average time period of nine years and many have not made any long-term plans for their loved ones who depend on them for care.
The majority of these caregivers experience little help or support with only 35 percent saying that have relatives or friends who assist them. Many of those without support feel socially isolated which can affect them emotionally.
What can put the most pressure on caregivers is the struggle to find an accurate diagnosis, the right medications and being able to get loved ones to follow treatment regimens. They also must deal with the burden of finding the right doctors, outpatient services, health care professionals to consult with as well as obtaining insurance coverage for treatment.
Handling Treatment and Care for Severe Mental Illnesses
Parents and family members caring for loved ones that struggle with severe illnesses like schizophrenia find that it takes a toll on them as well. A study surveying caregivers handling those with mental illness showed that they reported high levels of stress and only a third rated their health as excellent.
About half of the caregivers surveyed said that their health problems could be attributed to their care-giving responsibilities. The majority of caregivers said that they needed more insurance coverage for their loved ones and more help navigating the treatment system as they struggle to educate themselves about mental health issues.
Treatment for mental illness has been deinstitutionalized meaning that people with mental health issues can live as a part of their community. Unfortunately there is not enough support for family members who are helping to care for their loved ones living with a mental illness. With patients no longer living full-time in hospitals for treatment, the responsibility for care often rests more on parents, spouses and other family members that take on the role of caregiver.
Mental illness is something that affects a whole family and not just an individual. Many people have no choice but to provide emotional and even financial support to the loved ones that receive a serious diagnosis. Many of them care for a person so long that they don't know how to create a plan for them to eventually become more independent or find another option for care.
As caregivers advance in age they must find alternatives for their loved ones in the future. Overall caregivers need more support and help in order to better handle the responsibilities of being a full-time provider so that it does not affect their health.
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