Caring for Caregivers
Am I A Caregiver?
Caregivers are people that take on the responsibility of looking after those with health conditions. While there are many health conditions which people suffer from, CAL specifically supports caregivers of persons with mental health issues.
A caregiver to a person with mental health issues can be anyone. They may be close family members, extended family members, or friends. They can also be a caregiver no matter how much care they provide, from providing direct care on a daily basis as the primary caregiver to taking an interest in the well-being of the care recipient and in helping the main caregiver out at times as a secondary caregiver. Both primary and secondary caregivers play important roles in fostering a conducive environment for persons with mental health issues to recover or regain an ability to function.
How Does CAL Help Caregivers?
CAL supports caregivers cope with their situation better and recognise that the challenging behaviour they face comes from the mental health issue, and not from their loved one.
Empowerment through Skills Building
CAL will help you learn about different symptoms of brain disorders, and how best to manage them. You will also learn the need to replenish yourself so that you can continue giving. You will understand the process of recovery better, and learn skills to mend relationships to reconnect with your loved ones.
Empowerment through Emotional Support
During adverse life events and challenges, it is always helpful when we can give voice to our emotional turmoil through individual coaching sessions. Talking it out with a counsellor or a trained staff can help vent toxic emotions, view things in a new perspective, and discover what steps to take to improve one's situation.
Empowerment through Peer Support
Through CAL's programme, we want to show you that there is hope. You do not have to feel so painfully lost and alone anymore. When you enrol in our programs, you become a member of an alliance of diverse caregivers. CAL provides Caregiver-to-Caregiver Training Programme (C2C) as well as group support. Each C2C class is uniquely structured like an educational cum support group. As you journey together with your cohort of C2C class participants for 12 sessions over 3 months, a sense of comradeship develops as you share your experiences and grow together.
Why Do Caregivers Need Support?
Caring for a loved one with mental health issues can be very challenging, especially when caregivers are not equipped with relevant skill sets and do not have a proper support network. Our Caregivers-to-Caregivers Training Programme (C2C) can provide that support. View our class schedule here: https://www.cal.org.sg/caregiver-training
Relationships with Loved Ones
The moods, thoughts, and behaviour of persons with mental health issues may be bewildering to their caregivers. Caregivers can witness bizarre actions, a lack of self-care, self-harming behaviour or even become the targets of aggression from persons whom they care deeply about. It can be traumatising. It is very difficult to acknowledge that someone you love is suffering mental anguish and that you are helpless in the face of it. Often, caregivers try to persuade their loved one not to do this or that, or seek to correct their behaviour – but end up quarrelling with their loved one or with each other over how best to handle the situation. However, reasoning, coaxing, and threats do not always work – and relationships can quickly deteriorate if caregivers do not seek help.
Fear of Stigma
It is easier at first for caregivers to believe that their loved ones have character issues like laziness and lack of self-discipline than to acknowledge that their loved ones have a mental health condition. After all, most people believe that values can be inculcated but mental health issues carries a heavy label which is often equated with stigma, shame, and debilitation. Since the root of stigma lies in ignorance and superstition, CAL encourages all caregivers to empower themselves and their families through knowledge about mental health issues. One means of this is to enrol in CAL’s training programmes. When caregivers understand that mental health issues are disorders which are medically treatable, they can let go of their fears and focus on learning how to improve the situation for their families.
Grappling with Ambivalent Loss
Caregivers may feel a sense of loss over losing the loved one they knew before the mental health condition, and having to accept someone so different instead: the same person in appearance but no longer with the same attributes. This is the dilemma of ambivalence loss. Ambivalent loss is an exhausting, conflicted state in which a person feels unable to come to terms with a loss that is perceived rather than tangible. Nevertheless, emotional healing can take place when emotions are expressed in a non-judgemental atmosphere of supportive caregivers, which CAL is able to provide.
Coping with Intense Feelings
Providing care for someone with a mental health issue can at times be overwhelming and distressing. Feelings are complex and vary from person to person. Caregivers need to recognise what they are feeling and to understand why they feel the way they do, because feelings affect decision-making and behaviour. Talking to a counsellor about feelings deemed unacceptable such as grief, anger, resentment, and shame can help to resolve underlying issues. Counselling sessions can help us to understand ourselves better and view issues in perspective, which boosts our resilience in handling setbacks.