Local Expert Blog: Caregiving To Loved-One With Mental Illness: An Emotional Roller-Coaster

Saturday September 25th, 2021

Posted at 10:55am

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When was the last time you experienced a strong emotion? You might agree that those closest to us – parents, partners, siblings, children – have the deepest impact on our emotions. For the families providing support to a loved one experiencing mental illness or addiction, those emotions can be intense.

Riding the Highs and Lows

The best way to describe what it means to be a caregiver is by using a roller-coaster analogy. Imagine you’re on a roller-coaster ride even though you’re terrified of heights. The ride is fast and turbulent. You’re in constant panic, your stomach is in knots, you feel nauseous, anxious, and worried all the time. Sometimes, the ride slows down, and you feel better but also uneasy as you know it won’t last and you’re in constant anticipation for another unpleasant trip. Your loved one is also on the same ride. Unlike yours, their seat is falling apart, their seatbelt is not working properly, and their fear of heights is even greater than yours. So, in addition to your own discomfort, you are concerned with the far worse situation your loved one is in. You want to help and to alleviate their fears, but most times you feel powerless. And the ride goes on and on…

Most caregivers experience this roller-coaster of emotions and these ups and downs are a regular occurrence. Caregivers can feel sad, overwhelmed, alone, anxious, worried, frustrated, and tired. Their role, however, is an important one, both to their loved ones and to the underfunded mental health and addictions healthcare system that is increasingly reliant on informal caregivers.

What does a caregiver do?

Caregivers do a lot! Caregivers:

  • Advocate for healthcare services and provide guidance in accessing and navigating these services
  • Provide financial assistance, guidance on personal finances or housing support
  • Assist their loved ones when in crisis
  • Provide social and emotional support
  • Assist their loved ones with medication and illness management
  • Assist with activities such as shopping, meal preparation or housekeeping
  • Provide transportation to appointments

Caring for the Caregiver Conference

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Mental Health and Addictions Patient and Family Advisory Council, along with the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor and WE-SPARK Health Institute, want to support caregivers in our community. These organizations are leading the inaugural Caring for the Caregiver Conference, the brainchild of a local caregiver.

Scheduled on October 16 and October 23, 2021, from 9:00am to 1:00pm, this virtual event will focus on education, wellness and connections for families who provide support to a loved one living with mental illness or addiction. There is no cost to participate, and caregivers can win some great prizes! Registration is now open. Caregivers can see the agenda and register here: https://www.wesparkhealth.com/caregiver-conference

Sponsored story by Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare, The University of Windsor, and WE-SPARK Health Institute.

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