Caretaking Chronicles: Coping with Mental Illness? Ask for Help

Yesterday I went to visit my mom, Ho-Ho, to make sure she was still driving the staff at her independent living facility nuts.  The head Home Care rep informed me that Ho-Ho spent the day pinching her cheeks while telling people she had been poisoned and couldn't talk. Yes, I do realize how ridiculous it is that this is the new "normal".

Between 2 AM calls demanding family members come "rescue her" and the 10,000 messages I have left with case managers, social workers and doctors, I am at wits end. I wake up at 1 AM and watch Overboard (hey yo!), make lists and search the Internet for resources to help us eek through life until she is 65 (um, NINE MORE YEARS!).

Last week, I went to a National Alliance on Mental Illness' (NAMI) family support group. We need to formulate a "what if we need a long term institutionalization" plan (likely to be executed shortly), and I figured this was the best place to start in terms of collecting resources, learning about hospitals, etc.

Years ago, I participated in NAMI's Family-to-Family course. It is  a twelve-week educational class for caretakers that I found to be incredibly useful. Participants and facilitators were brutally honest and we received a wealth of information that not only continues to help me manage Ho-Ho's affairs, but also cope. Touchy-feely, I know. And no, we still don't have a plan.

Get all up in that (cr:

At last week's meeting, I met folks in similar positions and received a healthy serving of humble pie; something that is always appreciated when one spends too much time naval-gazing. Most importantly, NAMI staff and volunteers provided me with valuable information regarding hospitalization options (services offered, oversight, doctor interaction/follow-up, etc.).

My point? If you are feeling overwhelmed as a caregiver, reach out. According to NAMI, "1 in 4 adults are mentally ill - a disability more prevalent than most people know."

The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children. (1)

Whether you are a caregiver or consumer, NAMI provides critical  support and resources to help ease the burden of those wrestling with mental illness. Contact their helpline  at (800) 950-NAMI (6264) or visit NAMI's website for immediate assistance. I have found time and time again that their staff are happy and well-equipped to research issues/doctors/facilities, etc. and provide callers with information to help them forge head.

Get the facts on mental illness and know that a support network exists and is waiting to help you. If you are overwhelmed, shoot me an email at and we will get you going.

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    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

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