Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Caring for a # Mental Patient

Mental illness causes a lot of suffering to the patient but it is not the patient alone who is affected by it.There are chances of the atmosphere of his home deteriorating and ripple effects being felt by the whole family.Quite a lot of juggling and readjustments have to be made.If the disease has crossed the initial/mild stage then caring for the patient becomes an important necessity.

The do's and don'ts
  • The first step of course is to take him for a physical check up.Diseases like Thyroid,Cancer,stroke and many others can also cause depression.Some medicines too can spark mental disorders like anxiety,depression,hallucinations or suicidal thoughts.When all this has been ruled out the physician may refer you to a Mental Health Worker,Psychologist or a Psychiatrist as per need.
  • If the patient has been prescribed medicines then make sure he takes them at the right time.Psychiatric medicines can have many negative side effects.If he is unhappy with one medicine you can request the doctor to change it.If by chance the patient decides that he cannot continue the medicines then these should not be stopped voluntarily, all of a sudden.Take your doctor's help in easing them off slowly.
  • If you are apprehensive of him committing suicide,do not keep quiet by suppressing your fears-ask him outright.It is best to know and discuss.To be safe,remove all such items which he could use for that purpose from within his reach.
  • If the patient has given evidence of self harm then diagnosis ,followed by treatment of the cause of such behavior is essential.Make sure the patient does not shut himself in a room for too long and does not have access to sharp objects.
  • Caring for a mental patient is not easy--it is a full time job.You cannot take a day off.You will have to synchronize your siesta with that of the patient.
  • Patience is the key tool because you cannot respond in your usual fashion to any stimulus coming from him since he is not his usual self.
  • You cannot check,judge or criticize him even if he is being irrational,inconsiderate,ungrateful or downright rude;because doing so could worsen his condition or even spark off a crisis.
  • At the same time it is important to wean him off unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving.All your talent in diplomacy will be needed to cajole and motivate him to bring about those changes in his lifestyle.For instance if you want to take him out for a walk it will be better to say 'I have a terrible headache,can you accompany me for a breath of fresh air?';rather than saying 'You should go out for exercise,it is good for you.'
  • If he takes umbrage at the slightest or zero provocation,just say 'I am sorry,I did not mean to hurt you.'
  • A mental patient may suffer bouts of self pity but telling him to snap out of it or reminding him that numerous people are much worse off than him;is not done.This truth does not help him because he has to live in his own body,with his own devils.
  • Mental illness is accompanied by a constellation of physical symptoms which might seem minor,bizarre or even non-existent to an onlooker;but check that impulse to ascribe it to his imagination,because there is definitely something in his body which is producing those symptoms.
  • At the domestic level,take care of his diet,personal hygiene and exercise.See that he does not take alcohol or any other harmful drugs.Even smoking and an excess of coffee intake should be avoided.
  • Assure the patient that you love him and will always be there for him.Encourage him to share his worries and emotions with you.Do not be judgmental-it will shut him off.Advice too,may not be welcome;wait till he asks for it.Just empathize and be his sounding-board.
  • Give him hope,tell him that his disease will not last for ever.Motivate him to be proactive.
  • Keep the atmosphere of your home peaceful and affectionate.Enliven it by cracking jokes,highlighting humorous aspects of situations,recalling fond memories and playing peppy music.
  • Encourage him to participate in family routines like having his meals with others,watching TV and doing chores around house.
  • Take him out for socializing,entertainment and recreation.Help him to pursue a hobby of his choice.
  • You may have to act as a liaison between the patient and other agencies like his doctor,banker,teacher and employer etc.
Self care for a caregiver
Looking after a mental patient is a very taxing responsibility.Constant vigil and long hours make it very tiring.Mentally too, you are likely to feel exhausted because you may have to put up with a lot of annoying behavior,simultaneously curbing your own instinct to vent your anger.There is real danger of you falling ill if you do not take proper rest and respite.  

Therefore it is of extreme importance to look after your own needs--whether it be your diet,sleep or your precious me-time.Try to keep your life intact as far  as possible and don't feel guilty about it.Assign part of your duties to other members of your family.In case there is no one else but you and the patient at home,hire someone on a regular basis.But you definitely need time to rejuvenate.Only then will you be able to give your best to someone who desperately needs it.


  1. In such cases,there always is a suicidal tendency.

    1. Chowla ji mental disorders are very case-specific...it all depends.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Very well put, Induji! There is a saying' Jab tak Saans tab tak Aas' . So one should not give up even in terminal cases by not letting the environment deteriorate!

    1. Yes Rahul we can try our best to give them a good life.

  3. Hats off to anyone who can and does handle this stress, Indu! I'm afraid that I probably would never have a sufficiency of the most important requirement - patience.

  4. It is true that self pity is very injurious,it blocks the person from looking for a solution,only pushes him down and down.

  5. I am glad you wrote about this topic, Indu. Often, most of us don't really think of the caregivers and the stress they go through. With mental illnesses, the caregiving is even tougher because of the peaks and troughs that a patient experiences. It is difficult to be patient all the time.

    1. You hit it on the head Rachna.Caregivers have a hard life.
      Love :)

  6. Being positive and hopeful that things will be alright is the best care. That way even the caretaker will remain in the best frame of mind.
    Well written.

    1. Excellent addition Alok.Hope and positivity motivate both patient and caregiver to carry on.

  7. Exactly what you have said Indu ji

    Its not only the patient who needs care and understanding but also the person looking after the patient specially when the patient is a near and dear one whose state is a cause of agony to the nurse there is every chance that the nuse may become a patient too ---so the person looking after should put up a very mature attitude and not get emotionally involved ( Waheeda Rehman in Khamishi ) and similarly the nurse should also be mature and sympathetic toards the patient and not loose ones temper while dealing with the irrational behaviour of the patien t.

    thanks for this one too Indu ji all these posts help in keeping oneself in touch with the realities of life

    love and hugs and thanks

    1. You have put it very well Rajni,it is like walking on razor's edge.
      Iam glad i could resonate with you and you have added another dimension to my post.Thanks a lot.
      Love n hugs.


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