November is National Family Caregivers month. This recognition is celebrated during the month of November, likely because Thanksgiving is the perfect time to “give thanks” for what they do. (THANK YOU!) There are over 53 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers to family, friends, and neighbors. Twenty-seven percent of adult caregivers are helping someone with a mental illness. That’s equal to over 14 million Americans!
The role of caregiver is an important one. However, caring for a family member who is dealing with a mental health issue is a tremendous responsibility that can at times be overwhelming. Between appointments, medications, insurance companies, and trying to maintain balance in the family, it can sometimes seem like too much to handle. When holiday stress is added, caregivers are the ones who often take on the additional burdens. You have a lot on your plate year-round, but the pressure to look after your loved one during the holidays can lead to caregiver stress and even compassion fatigue. This stress can also have a ‘ripple effect’ sometimes creating uncertainty that results in significant changes for the entire family.
If you find yourself overwhelmed or already dreading the upcoming holiday season, the following suggestions might be helpful to you:
Take care of yourself first. One of the most important things to remember is that caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your loved one. Making your physical and mental health a priority is critical to feel your best, which will allow you to provide the best care possible for others.
Be clear about your energy level. Let family members know that your caregiving duties are keeping you very busy, and that your energy for holiday preparation and hosting duties may be limited. In other words, give yourself permission to say “no.”
Accept the need to adapt. Caregivers must often adapt their customary role or their traditional experience of the holidays. This may mean allowing another family member to host, or you might find you need to modify the amount of time spent away from home. You may also need to choose which events to attend, choosing those that are the simplest and most enjoyable for everyone involved.
The professional staff at Rose Hill Center recognizes the important role families play in a resident’s recovery, and work hard to include, inform and support them in many ways. Case managers schedule conference calls and Zoom meetings with Residents and their loved ones as needed to discuss progress, planning (including holiday plans), and after care. Moreover, family caregivers are provided with community resources, such as support groups and advocacy organizations to assist them long after a loved one leaves Rose Hill.
Family caregivers for people with mental illnesses are a key support system and often take on multiple roles in providing care. Families may experience stress and anxiety related to these roles and may benefit from professional mental care for themselves. Rose Hill’s clinicians working with families often identify these needs and provide referral to suitable services.