When loved ones have a serious medical condition or are living with chronic disease, their family caregivers tend to focus only on what can impact physical health, keeping an eye on healing wounds, monitoring vital signs and assisting with mobility. But as patients age, it’s important to consider their mental health as well.
“Family members know a loved one better than anyone else,” says Amy Silbaugh, manager of clinical development for Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio. “They should be on the lookout for signals that a patient is in need of additional care or treatment for a mental health issue, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression and other disorders.”
Silbaugh advises family caregivers to watch for these six signs:
- Frequent hospitalizations. Persistent medical problems can trigger depression or may be a symptom of a larger, systemic issue.
- A gradual decline in their loved one’s well-being. Has the person’s health condition deteriorated along with the emergence of negative feelings, depression or despair?
- Alterations in sleeping or eating. Changes in habits and routines often signal the patient needs care for additional issues, both mental and physical.
- Failing to take medications and/or missing doctor’s appointments. These are often connected to memory loss or losing a sense of being present.
- Exhibiting aberrant behavior that cannot be controlled. Is the loved one acting out of character or inappropriate for a given situation?
- Voicing thoughts of hurting themselves and others. This requires immediate attention and medical assistance.
Families can initiate the process of bringing in home care for mental health needs by calling the patient’s doctor or a provider, such as VNA of Ohio, directly. For mental health homecare, patients must have a primary diagnosis of severe mental illness that prohibits them from leaving home and seeking help independently.
Through home visits, VNA of Ohio staff can identify whether the client is keeping up with medications and ensure that the doctor is getting an accurate report about how the patient is faring. That involvement can be a relief to those who fear that their loved one may be concealing a condition or exacerbating it by not taking his medication or following through with doctor’s appointments. Silbaugh says that in addition to providing treatment, the other key aspect of home care is education.
“A lot of times we’re a resource to the family as much as the client,” she said. “We help them to understand the disease and the progress. There is no cure for mental illness. We try to help the client learn, ‘How to make you the best you’ and how their family can help.”
Call VNA of Ohio Today
Learn more about VNA of Ohio mental health services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.