Being tasked with taking care of another human being is surely one of the most daunting things that can happen to someone. While we don’t want to make it out to be some horror story, it can be an extremely difficult and frightening task. In fact, many people live in fear of having to do it some day. It can stem from a fear of the ageing of your parents. After all, as the next of kin, you’re going to have to decide what to do with an elderly parent. There’s also the fear that something could happen to your partner that would necessitate full-time care.
This may sound like pretty selfish thinking. The focus is being put on you as opposed to the well-being of the other person. But that’s because we’re only thinking hypothetically. If something does actually happen that requires you to care for someone else, it will be completely different. Indeed, it will be very different to what you’ve imagined on many levels. Some of it will be more difficult than you had originally thought. Some of it won’t be anywhere near as terrible as you thought it would be.
But as this article will display, a little bit of selfish thinking can work to everyone’s benefit. That is if you’re combining it with positive thinking and selflessness. You’ll see what I mean as we go along.
Living with someone suffering from mental illness
While we often think about the physically disabled, we rarely take much time to consider those living with mental illness. While the stigma is slowly making its way out, there’s still a very “behind closed doors” aspect to mental illness. It’s certainly the most abstract and most difficult to understand. It’s much easier to see yourself caring for someone who is clearly unable to do certain things for themselves. But having to be an emotional support to someone who may be unable to deal with their own emotions? It’s harder to imagine.
The first step is understanding the types of mental illness that could cause these problems. Mental illnesses can cause severe problems with mood, thinking, and general behaviour. It’s not something someone can go through with the power of their own mind. Many make the mistake of thinking someone suffering from a mental illness can simply “get over it”. This is especially true in the cases of anxiety and depression. This mindset can also negatively affect the carer: after all, if someone can just “get over it”, then why aren’t you able to help them do so?
There are many types of mental illness. Anxiety disorders and mood disorders are more common than you may think. It’s not just a case of “the occasional blues”. They can manifest themselves physically and render someone unable to handle many everyday tasks. Interacting with others or leaving the house can become extremely difficult and stressful. There are also psychotic disorders, which alter someone’s thinking and awareness. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic problem. Hallucinations and delusions are features of these disorders.
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You need to help the person develop and follow routines in their daily life. These are often the first things to suffer when someone has a mental illness. While it may seem like a small thing, keeping some sort of routine is going to help tremendously. A first step here is to try creating regular times for going to bed and getting up in the morning. These tasks can be particularly difficult for that person, as sleeping troubles are also common here. Try to keep them active with energetic activities, even if that is just a daily walk. Make sure they take their prescribed medicines in order to help them deal with their problem. And if suicidal thoughts become a topic, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. Getting professional assistance can be vital here. But make sure you don’t avoid talking frankly with your loved one about these thoughts. This will help prevent bottled-up emotions. As I’m sure you know from personal experience, bottling up emotions is rarely a good thing.
Looking after the elderly
Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about when our elderly loved one will need help, as opposed to if. It’s important to look out for the signs that someone may need help soon. Increased forgetfulness, decrease in personal hygiene and injuries are the more obvious signs. But even these can be hidden by the person suffering from them.
Have observed behaviour that suggests that your elderly loved one needs to be taken care of? Then you need to discuss it with them directly. Discuss what you’ve observed and ask them for their opinion on what might be happening. If they acknowledge the problems, then don’t instantly make action plans for them. Ask them what they think would be the ideal solution.
Many elderly people who acknowledge that they need some extra care would prefer to be at home, or at least at a family member’s home. The first thing you should do is make sure your house is suitable for their stay. As you surely know by now, the elderly have a much harder time moving around houses then you do. The ideal solution would be to make sure their room is located on the lower floor. The closest room to any downstairs bathroom facilities would be the best. But if rooming on the lower floor isn’t possible, you may want to look into getting a stairlift. Many other areas of the house will probably need to be modified in order to accommodate them. What about the front of the house? Are there stairs leading up to your front door? You could have these converted into a ramp. Even if your elderly loved one isn’t in a wheelchair, a well-built ramp will make it much easier to get up and down. You’ll also need to install anti-slip measures in your bathrooms and showers.
The best thing you can do here is help your loved one keep busy. Don’t assume they’re going to be just fine sitting on the sofa and watching television. Use this time to interact with them more than you might have done in the past few years. To help yourself be prepared for elderly care, you can take an educational course on the subject. It’s important to know as much as possible in order to protect them properly if something goes wrong. And if it gets too much, you should remember that it’s possible to get help in quality assisted living. See HC-Care-Homes for more details.
Taking care of yourself
This is where the whole “little bit of selfish thinking” thing I mentioned earlier comes into play. The fact is that looking after someone else can be extremely trying for you. Having to take on all these extra responsibilities will increase your stress, which is going to have a lot of adverse health effects. Sleeplessness and irritability are common in these kinds of situations for the carer. You may often end up thinking you need someone to take care of you!
Well, you do. That “someone”, however, probably has to be you. You need to make sure you’re taking time out in order to calm down and give yourself some breathing space. If there’s someone else who can help you look after the person, take advantage of this and consider a holiday. In fact, many care facilities offer “respite” services. You can leave your loved one in professional care for a few days while you focus on yourself. Discuss this with the person, but try to avoid making them feel like a burden. Be honest about the stress the situation is putting you under, but make sure they know that you love them. Make sure you still think you’re the best person to do this and that you’re going to back with them as soon as possible. Explain to them the importance of looking after yourself.
It’s important to keep as positive an outlook as possible during the entire process. This can take many forms. Usually, it will involve finding the “silver lining” amongst what seems like a “dark cloud” situation. Here’s an example of positive thinking in the case of a parent. If you’re taking care of an elderly parent, you can think of this as repayment for all the time they took care of you. This may seem like flawed reasoning to you, if you think about it. After all, you didn’t choose to be born, and they were legally obliged to look after you! While this is all true, you shouldn’t let it distract you from what is, ultimately, positive thinking.
Ultimately, this is going to affect everyone positively. If you’re stressed, overworked and tired, then it’s going to negatively affect your ability to take care of this person properly. Your loved one needs a positive and comfortable environment. Help provide it to them by making sure you look after yourself. Get some sleep, meet up with friends – heck, even sit around and watch television if it helps!
You should also look into all your options for financial help. Taking care of someone with mental or physical disabilities can take a financial toll, but there is assistance available. See the NHS website for more details.