Many people talk about coping tools for those who have a mental illness. These are very important to know, but what is also important is what kind of coping tools are available to caregivers? Being on the flipside of the coin, caregiving shares many tools of self-care and also has several unique to the situation. Fear not for there are coping skills for all!
The first one, and for me at one point my least favorite, take care of yourself too. This doesn’t mean to just dump your child, spouse, parent, or other loved one at somebody else’s place and fly to Tahiti for a month. For myself it means to not lose myself in the role of caregiver. It means to make sure that I still enjoy a decent quality of life so that I can continue to be a good caregiver. For example, maybe I’m awake early and my wife is still asleep, what a good opportunity to read a book I’m into (or a mighty article? Lol). The point is that while we may be striving to be the best, we are only human and therefore can burnout. By taking care of ourselves AND our loved one we can hopefully avoid burnout and continue to be there for the ones we love.
Secondly, don’t lose your shit. This one is twofold. Say your loved one is having a rough day and says something you may find strange or rude. Don’t get hysterical over it. For instance, I’ve experienced a loved one saying some things that others could find disturbing, I just keep my cool, accept it as a part of their illness, and talk it out calmly. Also, sometimes people have a bad day, we are all entitled to them once in a while. Maybe your loved one snaps at you. Again, keep your cool. You can still be firm but be careful not to come across as confrontational or looking for a scrap.
Thirdly, Stay organized. I’ve found that one of the most beneficial things that I’ve done is to keep records of anything mental illness related. I’ve got a great big binder with several sections. Keep a record of anything that may be useful for reference down the road, appointments, questions and answers with doctors, and medications, that sort of stuff. Keeping a record of everything will make it so you don’t have to have everything stored in your memory all the time. Trust me when I say this one is critical.
Fourth, think about making a crisis plan. The crisis plan in our house consists of important phone numbers, medications and their doses, where to go, what to make note of, and some readings for people who may want to know more on how to approach a crisis. If you’re giving a copy to someone who may be spending any amount of time with your loved one, make sure they go over it BEFORE not when a crisis appears.
Fifth, I decided to buy a laptop bag for the big binder mentioned earlier. It works as a “survival bag” as well as a way of easily carrying the binder around. This also had the positive outcome of putting all the essentials for an emergency department visit in one bag. I highly recommend getting a setup where you can leave in a hurry and know you’re as prepared as possible.
Finally, Never, ever, EVER lose hope. Hope is the foundation of just about everything we cherish in this world. Plus, hope is contagious. So, in a nutshell, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
While this is only my personal and limited experience, I do hope it is of some benefit to anybody who finds this article.