Hope for Long-Term Mental Health Caregivers
December 7, 2022
As part of our Caregiver Expectations Throughout Treatment educational series, we interviewed Sandra Edmonds Crewe, MSW, PhD. Dr. Crewe is Dean and professor of Social Work at Howard University with experience as a caregiver. The following is Part Two of a two-part interview.
When Needs Change
When someone lives with a mood disorder over their lifetime, their needs may change from one stage of life to the next. What can caregivers do to adjust to these changes? What should caregivers do if they are unhappy about the change?
One of the ways to ease these transitions is to understand your loved one’s disorder. Not all disorders have the same symptoms, not all progress in the same way. You’ll be better prepared to deal with changes when you have an idea of what might be coming next.
Because change can be taxing, it’s important that you know yourself, too. If you are someone who has difficulty with change, reach out for the support you need to adjust to the changes. These situations often create discomfort. Lean into it. You’re not going to be able to change the stage they’re in, but you can make decisions about how you respond to their behaviors.
It’s also important to not let their changes dictate your life. If, for example, your loved one is going through a period when they won’t leave the house, you don’t need to be housebound, too. If you’re afraid to leave them alone, ask a friend or relative to stay with them while you go out and take a little time away to recharge.
Finally, remember that they are not doing this to aggravate you. The problem is the disorder, not the person. Keeping them distinct can help increase your compassion, understanding, and ability to deal with these difficult times.
Hope for Long-Term Caregiver
We talk to caregivers about maintaining hope. It can be hope that their loved one can get better, hope that they will find a treatment plan that works, and hope for a future that may be symptom-free. Long-term caregivers, however, know that their loved one will likely experience episodes of depression or mania throughout their life. How do you help them come to terms with this reality? Do you have any suggestions for how the caregiver can maintain hope?
First of all, be specific with your prayers and hope. I believe that hope should reflect what there is a possibility of happening, rather than what you expect to happen. We are in control of what we hope, but not the outcome. Your hope doesn’t have to be the same all the time, either.
Maybe you hope that your loved one has the highest quality of life possible, given their disorder. Or that you are able to support them for as long as they need you or that you can do what you need to do for as long as possible. Perhaps it’s that you will have the patience to continue to provide supportive care. Or that someone else will step in to help. Even though hope is aspirational, connect an action to the hope. What can you do to increase the likelihood that the hope will be realized?
Of course, you need to deal with the reality you’re living in. But even in the darkest times, never give up. Reach out for support. Use all the resources available to you. And hold on to the hopes that keep you going.
- Read part one of this interview, Challenges Facing Long-Term Mental Health Caregivers
- Learn about the Stages of Change in our video series