Coping with a Mentally Ill Parent (or child)

Your childhood was bad enough, having to behave like an adult, caring for your parent. Now your siblings are either sick as well or not willing to take the burden on. You are stuck being the financial legal guardian or the one with the power of attorney. When is it your turn to be a child and take a break?

NAMI.org stands for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Click on the link and then find the local chapter near you.  The local chapters are available to help families who are dealing with adults or children that have mental illness. This is not limited to any topic in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), call and ask them about your family’s situation. Generally speaking they provide education and also outreach through family support groups.

Disability – Is your parent (child) getting disability for their illness? It is much easier to get with children then it is with adults. Again, check with your local NAMI office to find out if they can assist you in understanding the system.

Social Services – There is an adult social services (as well as for children). They would much rather help a family before there is a crisis then when it happens. Prevention is a goal with these workers. Educating the public is their hope to make sure they don’t ever see you on their caseload. This is generally run by the county that you live in. Look up your county on-line and search for social services. Call them up and talk to them to find out what type of support is available to you. Don’t be afraid to let them in your home. If your situation is THAT bad, it is better that you invite them in then have the embarrassment of someone else doing it for you. And, it might not be as bad as you feel it is.

Respite Programs – Ask to see if daycare programs are available in your area.

Nursing Homes – It might be hard to do this and they may not want to go but if your family member is someone you are afraid to leave alone, they need assisted living. It is time you had a life of your own. These programs, social services, NAMI, they can all provide support on what is the best option for your family. They can also give some advice on financial assistance.

In the case of children, you would be look at very highly structured group homes or residential treatment facilities. If you or your families’ safety is at risk, you need help of an outside solution.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t become the martyr. Your own mental health is at risk when you are trying to play doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, and child at the same time. There are resources to help people and it is important to take advantage of them. While this is your parent and you love them dearly, their situation does not get better. You owe it to yourself and to your family member to make sure they are getting the best treatment available. This means working with professionals. It is time to let them go and accept that you have done the best you could. After you have got them into treatment, it is important that you then take care of your own mental health and get support for all this stress you have been under!

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