Self-care for Caregivers of Mental Health Clients

February 25, 2014

Caring for an ailing loved one at home is a challenge under any circumstances. But those who care for individuals with mental illness often bear a particularly heavy burden.

self care for caregivers

Through its mental health services division, Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio provides home care for individuals with mental illness. But the agency also provides vital support to their patients’ primary caregivers, said Amy Silbaugh, manager of mental health services for VNA of Ohio.

Caregivers of patients with mental illness are exhausted and strained by their own intense emotions, including stress, fear, grief and sometimes anger. Without a reprieve, this strain can push caregivers to a point of breaking.

Silbaugh said VNA of Ohio’s mental health home care team helps educate families about their loved ones’ diseases and advises them about how to cope with some of the difficult behavior those diseases can bring.

“Caregivers might have to deal with combative behaviors,” she said. “They can be hit or kicked. Patients may refuse to take their medications. It can wear someone down very quickly. That’s why home care help is so important.”

She said it is important that family members be sure to take care of themselves, too. That means taking time away, if only for a few hours, during visits from VNA of Ohio clinicians. VNA of Ohio home care professionals are available for respite care to allow for longer reprieves.

How to Deal with Combative Situations

Silbaugh said caregivers must be aware of their own limits as well as the limits of their loved ones. For example, combative situations can quickly escalate, and caregivers must know what to do to avoid danger.

At the beginning of the escalation period, caregivers should identify the problem and abate it by acknowledging the patient’s feelings, Silbaugh stated. She guides caregivers to use understanding statements and questions such as, “I see that you’re getting upset,” and “How can I make you feel better?”

“We teach caregivers how to de-escalate a situation,” she said. “The best thing is to prevent it before it starts. If something is getting out of control, you need to make sure you are safe. Remove yourself from the situation. Or if they are posing a threat to themselves, call for help.”

The 24-hour mental health mobile crisis line is 216-623-6888. If the situation presents an immediate threat to the patient or others, call 911.

Call VNA of Ohio Today

Learn more about VNA of Ohio mental health services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.

Posted in: Caregiver Resources, Home Healthcare, Mental Health

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