I came across some great research about caregivers and I didn’t share. I read the document and found myself lost in the numbers. I was a statistic and it made me feel both terrified and relieved. Terrified because there are so many of us. Relieved because there are so many of us.
It has been said that misery loves company. I have to say, though, that I would not wish the heartbreak and pain that goes with caring for someone with a mental illness on any one. In this case, misery wants company but doesn’t want others to suffer as we do.
We really just want people to get it: To not blame us. To see that we love our kids, our parents, our siblings, our spouse as much as you do. And to be there when we need you without judgment, without prejudice, without advice.
The study, entitled “On Pins and Needles: Caregivers of Adults with Mental Illness,” was published by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) almost a year ago in February of 2016. The research was conducted in partnership with Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The study’s purpose was to “provide an in-depth look at the unique issues and challenges facing those who provide unpaid care to an adult who has a serious-to-moderate emotional or mental health issue.”
So it’s about me.
What the research had to say was interesting. I could have written the report myself. No surprises there, except for the statistics. Did you know that at least 8.4 million Americans provide care to an adult with a mental health issues? The study found that those 8.4 million people – aka us – are especially vulnerable, and face complex and high burden care situations. As a group, we face emotional and physical stress. We don’t feel like we have a choice. And financially we struggle. Compared to caregivers who take care of adults with any other kind of condition, which is about four years, we have been in our role for more than twice the amount of time – an average of more than eight-and-a-half years.
The study is interesting and the link, if you are interested in reading it, is at the end of this blog post. There is a list of recommendations that came out of the research and of the eight specific points listed in the summary at the beginning of the report, which include suggestions pertaining to screening, access to services, reimbursement for medications, and outreach, I found the last two most interesting: Education and resources for caregivers, including short-term respite, one-to-one support, and peer support for caregivers; and ending stigma.
So the report recognizes the need for people to talk and support each other. Something many of us have already figured out. Misery really does love company, but only if the company is credible and understands what normal looks like when you care for a loved one with a mental illness. So I am sorry for not sharing sooner. I apologize for starting a blog and then only posting a few times. It was a tough year for me. Thankfully I have people who pray for me, meet with me, and know my pain because it is their pain, too.
I’m a mom who cares for young adult children with severe mental illnesses. And I live my life on pins and needles.
You can read “On Pins and Needles: Caregivers of Adults with Mental Illness” here: http://www.caregiving.org/mentalhealth/