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Caregiving for a Person with a Mental Illness

There are 60 million Americans who provide unpaid care to a family member, friend, or neighbor who has a physical or mental illness.  This number is expected to increase over the next few years as the baby boomer generation ages into their senior years [1]

Caregivers come from all walks of life and all ages [2].

  • The largest group of caregivers is working and is in their middle-aged adult years. They often care for a child with disabilities and/or a parent with disabilities. Those people who are taking care of both a child and parent are considered to be in the sandwich caregiver group.

  • Children ages 8-18 years make up 1.5 million of America’s caregivers. These children are typically taking care of a parent or sibling.

  • College-age students also make up a large portion of caregivers. One out of three caregivers is between the ages of 18-29 years old.

  • Grandparents are also commonly caregivers. There are about 2.7 million grandparents who care for their spouse, children, grandchildren, or friends. Many of these individuals face substantial health challenges themselves while providing care for others.

Being a caregiver comes with difficulties, but can be a very rewarding experience.  If you are a caregiver it is important to be educated not only on how to help the person you care for, but also yourself. Caregivers are more likely to have physical and mental health illnesses, a higher financial burden, and require work accommodations. On a more positive side, those who are caregivers report having a high degree of self-confidence. They also report that they learn new skills and are able to strengthen their relationship with others by being more sympathetic [3].

The nature of being a caregiver is to be concerned about the health and wellness of others, but it should not come at the expense of self-care.  It is important to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, taking time out for yourself, and seeking professional help if needed.

It is common among caregivers to develop depression or anxiety. Take a mental health screening if you are a caregiver and feel:

  • Anxious
  • Cry often
  • Lonely or detached from others
  • Angry
  • Very tired
  • Hopeless
  • Have thoughts of suicide or self-harm

External Resources

Caregiving for a Loved One with a Mental Illness
Family Caregiver Alliance
Caregivers Caring for Caregivers
Helping a Friend

Sources

1. Obama, B., Presidential Proclamation—National Family Caregivers Month, November 01, 2014.
2. The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), AARP Public Policy Institute. 2015. Caregiving in the U.S. June 2015.
3. Schulz and Sherwood. “Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 2008. 108: 23-27. Table 2.

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