Caregivers and Family Members to Mentally Ill Family Members May Not Get the Care They Need

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One in four families has at least one member who suffers a mental illness, according to the World Health Organization. Family members are frequently the primary caregivers of those will mental illnesses.

Those who act as the primary care provider for a family member with a mental illness may not be getting the care they need. Other family members living in the home may be missing out too, even if they perform little or none of the caregiving responsibilities.

Primary caregivers make many sacrifices to help loved ones with mental illnesses. The economic effects of caregiving are arguably the easiest to measure. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 77 percent of caregivers who provide care for family members with an emotional or mental health issue have made work arrangements to accommodate care, as compared to only 67 percent of those caring for someone who does not suffer emotional or mental health issues.

Caregivers struggle with many other issues as well. Many caregivers say they feel stigmatized by the presence of mental illness within the family. About one-third of caregivers have difficulty finding time for one’s self, managing stress and balancing work and family responsibilities. More than half suffer declining health due to caregiving duties. Most say they simply do not have the time to take care of themselves.

Fortunately, mental health professionals now recognize the overwhelming need to take care of the caregivers and have developed several helpful resources for caregivers.

Care for the Non-Primary Caregivers

Recently, researchers have realized that, aside from the primary caregivers, other people living in household may need extra care to help them manage the stresses of a mentally ill family member.

Case Western Reserve University co-investigator M. Jane Suresky wondered if a study focusing on women caregivers of mentally ill family members had missed something important. To find out, Suresky, DNP, PMHCNS, BC, recommended that researchers re-examine data collected from a 2008 Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing study, which looked at 60 females who cared for a family member with mental illness. The participants ranged in age from 23 to 65 years old. Among the participants, 45 percent cared for a family member diagnosed with bipolar disorder, another 45 percent with schizophrenia, 8 percent depression and 2 percent with a panic disorder.

The scientists re-examined the information and focused on how various factors affected non-primary caregivers in the family. The researchers analyzed diagnosis type, time since diagnosed, risk factors such as stigma and caregiver strain, and protective factors including a sense of family cohesiveness and amount of available resources. The investigators then correlated that information with data on how well the families functioned.

The researchers found that the length of mental illness did not affect how well the family functioned. The scientists did discover, however, that a diagnosis of a depressive disorder was more likely to cause disruption within the family as compared to a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The investigators also discovered that greater perceived stigma and caregiver strain was associated with more family disruption. Families functioned better when the caregiver had a sense of greater cohesion and resourcefulness within the household.

This study shows that greater attention needs to be given to everyone in a household where family members act as caregivers to someone with a mental illness. Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge is an adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment center for clients with serious mental illnesses. We give the most authentic treatment experience possible and offer a full range of individualized mental health treatment services centered around each resident. Pasadena Villa also offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) at it’s outpatient center in Raleigh, North Carolina. If you or someone you know may need counseling on mental health services, please fill out our contact form or call us at 407-215-2519 for more information.




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