Providing care for a mental health patient can be physically, mentally and emotionally tiring. Calvin Leong, a Nurse Manager from CaregiverAsia, shares that caregivers who are experiencing burnout may not realise that they need to seek help for themselves. Even if they do, they may not seek help due to the fear of stigma, or not knowing where to find support.
Detecting signs of mental illness in a loved one
These are some signs which a person with mental health may exhibit. You should seek professional help for this person if you have noticed these behaviours being displayed for a period of two weeks or more:
- Loss of interest in being with others
- Does not want to leave the house
- Experiences difficulties completing normal activities
- Has less energy than usual
- Inability to stay focused
- Experiences memory problems
- Heightened senses which causes the person to be upset or concerned
- Experiences nervousness or rapid mood changes
- Sleeps less than usual
- Eats less than usual
- Questions reality
- Displays odd behaviour which disturbs self or others
Where can you seek professional help for your loved one?
The Singapore Association for Mental Health aims to improve the health of persons with mental health issues though rehabilitation and reintegration, and at the same time, provides emotional and practical support to their families and caregivers.
The Institute of Mental Health runs community outreach and public education programmes on mental health awareness and training programmes.
Caring for someone with mental illness
If you are caring for someone with mental illness, besides equipping yourself with knowledge about the mental health condition of the patient, you will also have to familiarise yourself with the treatment or medication prescribed for the patient and its side effects.
Calvin shares that when caring for someone with a mental health condition, you may face communication, psychological, emotional, social and economic challenges:
- Communication challenges:
Many mental health patients are not motivated to communicate. They may lack the confidence to express their needs and wants. Some mental health patients may experience hallucinations as a symptom of their condition, and this will affect when and how they communicate.
- Psychological and emotional challenges:
Besides caring for the patient, you may worry about the present moment as well as the future of the patient. In addition, one may experience bitterness and sadness because of the disturbing behaviour of the patient.
- Social challenges:
Due to the lack of public awareness about mental illness, you may experience stigmatisation from society towards your family. Besides this, you may also have to put your social life on hold if you are the sole care provider for the patient.
- Economic challenges:
Additional expenses are incurred in relation to the care and treatment of the mental health patient. You may also have to forgo income generating activities in order to dedicate more time for care towards the patient. This will likely result in reduced income for the family, and could possibly lead to a situation of poverty.
Caregiver burnout is very real
From the above, you can comprehend why caring for a mental health patient is emotionally and mentally draining. It takes a toll on you and affects your personal wellbeing. Without adequate support, you may be at risk of acquiring caregiver stress and compassion fatigue. With its signs and symptoms creeping in slowly, these forms of caregiver burnout will affect you in a way that causes you to lose the ability to feel compassion for others. If this issue is not adequately addressed, it could lead to violence towards the patient.
There are some signs to look out for which indicate caregiver burnout. You should seek professional help if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Periods of agony
- Change in attitude (become uncaring) towards the person being cared for
- Fatigue, encounter problems sleeping
- Inability to concentrate
- Social withdrawal, feelings of isolation
- Loss of intimacy with loved ones
Where can you seek professional help for yourself, the caregiver?
According to Calvin, there is a common misconception that there are support programmes available only for the mental health patient and not the caregiver. This could be due to insufficient awareness about such programmes which offer help and support to caregivers.
For example, the National Council of Social Service in collaboration with Caregivers Alliance Limited, runs training programmes for caregivers caring for mental health patients. It equips caregivers with the knowledge and skills to better cope with their caregiving duties.
Here’s a list of places where you, as a caregiver, can seek help and support:
- Singapore Association for Mental Health Tel:1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health Tel: 6389 2222
- Caregivers Alliance Limited Tel: 6460 4400
- Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) Tel: 1800-650-6060
Do not be afraid to seek professional help for yourself to avoid caregiver burnout. You can also consider engaging respite care where a professional caregiver can take over your caregiving duties for a short period of time while you get some rest. Remember to first care for yourself, so that you can care for your loved ones.
CaregiverAsia provides respite care and professional caregiving services in the comfort of your home. If you are taking care of a loved one and need some time off for yourself or to run errands, you may reach out to the care service associates through their 24-hour hotline at +65 6258 6683.
For a limited period of time, CaregiverAsia is partnering Mind Culture to provide pro-bono one-on-one mental wellness counselling sessions for both their caregivers as well as their careseekers. By registering on their platform as either a freelance caregiver or customer, you can enjoy the complimentary mental wellness counselling session where you can share your concerns with a professional counsellor and learn how to better cope in your role as a caregiver.
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