Seeing a loved one suffer with depression is not an easy sight and at times can cause YOU to feel hopeless. For some individuals, depression can be debilitating and painful, making even the thought of getting help seem impossible. Trying to help someone who is depressed can be exhausting and met with many barriers. Arming yourself with knowledge, however, may help make the process easier. Below are a few suggestions of things to consider if you are trying to help someone you know.
Learn about Depression - there are many misconceptions about depression. Believing a person is lazy, weak and/or not interested in getting better are a few perceptions that individuals may have. Depression, is in fact, a common disorder that can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Generally speaking, interventions like medications, psychotherapy, and social support are needed in order to help alleviate symptoms.
Avoid Judgment - aside from understanding what depression is, it is also important to avoid judging your loved one. Being judgmental may cause your loved one to disregard what you are saying, especially if he/she is in denial of their symptoms. Being supportive by educating them about symptoms, options and resources can help provide the support they need and hopefully allow them to get some help.
Take Suicidal Talk Seriously - if your loved one has thoughts of hurting himself/herself it is important to contact his/her doctor right away or contact 911 if warranted. If they have not mentioned suicidal thoughts, be sure ask him/her directly so as to rule out the possibility. While some individuals may see this topic at taboo, it is crucial to know if these thoughts are floating around your loved one's head so that you can ensure treatment with the proper healthcare professional is obtained immediately.
Research Resources - knowing what types of assistance are available can help convince your loved one to reach out for help. Resources like local support groups, reading materials, online websites, etc., can help alleviate the feeling of isolation your loved one may be experiencing. Have this information handy when talking with him/her so that it will be immediately available when he/she needs it. Also consider including contact information for the National Suicide Hotline. This can be especially beneficial if your loved one is too ashamed to tell you the truth about his/her thoughts.
Aside from those listed above and those in the comments, what else should be included in this brief list of suggestions? Please share your thoughts below.
There may come a moment in your life, when you realize a loved one is in need of medical and/or a psychological attention due to physical, behavioral or mental changes they are exhibiting. Determining how and when to get them assistance can be difficult, anxiety-provoking, and filled with many unknowns. Below, are a few recommendations to consider if you are trying to get your loved one the medical/psychological attention you believe they need.
Talk with your loved one
Try to discuss your concerns with the person you are worried about. You may want to relay specific changes you have noticed and why you are concerned. If possible, try to refrain from making accusations, prematurely diagnosing, or becoming negative. The goal for this type of conversation is to relay what you have noticed, why are your worried and to express your feelings. Attaching feelings to your concerns may help your loved one feel reassured about your purpose. In other words, you don't want to give the impression that you are trying to control his/her life.
Should your loved one acknowledge a problem, consider arranging an immediate appointment with his/her primary physician or any other health care professional who believe is relevant to the problem identified. Your focus should be to serve as a support system to your loved one and help facilitate appointments and communication between any and all parties involved.
In the event your loved one denies having any problems and you are certain something is wrong, then consider some of the recommendations below. Keep in mind that factors like the relationship you have with your loved one, living far away, etc., may render some of these recommendations difficult to implement. Generally speaking, however, these are methods that have worked for some families.
Talk with friends, neighbors and/or other relatives
If you are unable to talk with your loved one directly, you may wish to discuss your concern with individuals who interact with your loved one on a frequent basis. This can be another relative, a close friend or even a neighbor. While you may not want to divulge anything about your loved one's well-being to people you don't know well, it could help give you better insight into what's going on with them.
Reach out to your loved one's Health Care Provider
Relaying your concern to your loved one's physician/mental health provider may be beneficial - provided you have his/her contact information. Be aware, however, that due to confidentiality regulations many health care professionals will not divulge any information regarding his/her patient's care. If a direct conversation with your loved one's provider is not possible, consider writing a letter explaining your reason for such contact, what you are noticing about your loved one and why you are concerned. At the very least, you will be notifying the provider and hopefully contributing to a more thorough evaluation the next time your loved one visits.
Plan an Unannounced Visit
An unexpected visit can be a great way of obtaining a glimpse of what is going on with your loved one, especially if you don't visit often. Visiting someone's home can often give you insight in to their priorities and functional capabilities. In other words, you want to assess things like the cleanliness of the home, their personal hygiene, their food supply and compare it to when your loved one was fine. Any changes could be further confirmation that something is wrong.
Reach out for Community Support
Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may find yourself needing additional "outside" support, especially if your loved one is refusing assistance but clearly needs some type of "intervention." If so, you may want to try reaching out to the department of social services or local mental health providers to inquire what, if anything, can be done to help your loved one. Certain cities and states have programs in place to help someone who may be at risk.
In the event you learn that there are no services to assist or that your "hands are tied", and it is causing you anxiety, my suggestion is to consider seeking therapy for yourself. Doing so can help alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing and may help prevent them from getting worse.
Do you have any other suggestions on getting a loved one help? Please share them below.
Throughout my work with clients and even just in my own social circle, a common question arises...."What does a healthy relationship consist of?" In a previous post, I discussed 2 key components to a healthy relationship and in this post, I will add two more. While there are many factors that contribute to a thriving relationship, the amount of compromise and love that is shared between a couple is vital.
Compromise - a relationship consists of two separate individuals who generally have different personalities, upbringings, values and thoughts. Problems can arise when the two individuals either do not know how to come to terms over something they disagree with or are unwilling to do so. This can lead to a stubbornness mentality or "tit for tat" relationship, where each person becomes more focused on winning their side of the argument which ultimately causes a relationship to deteriorate.
The act of comprising cannot be seen as "giving in" but rather as a willingness to meet your partner halfway and respect his/her individual opinions; much like you probably did when you first started dating. Compromising is a skill that requires listening and communication - something that can be hard to do when a couple is at odds with each other and emotions get in the way. This is where guidance from trusted sources like a religious/spiritual affiliate, a relationship counselor and/or seminars, workshops and books geared to relationships can help. Once you are educated, patience and practice is then needed to enhance this skill.
Love - according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, love is "a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person." At the core of any relationship, a certain level of affection, concern, care and regard for the person you are with is needed in order to overcome certain differences. Love is often the stepping stone that allows us to be more considerate and respectful of our significant other's views. While love will not resolve all issues within a relationship, it is a strong force that can pave the way for better communication and compromise.
What are some of the resources you used to enhance your love and ability to compromise with your partner? Please share your thoughts below.
For some family caregivers, finding themselves in the crossroads of caring for a parent and a partner can exacerbate the caregiving experience to a level that many others are unable to comprehend. Aside from learning how to manage and cope with a parent's illness, having to deal with a partner's health concerns can cause a loved one to feel even more isolated, depressed, anxious, etc., especially if their partner is the person they regularly turned to for emotional support and comfort. Managing, coping and maintaining are all ideas that can seem so foreign during this period but learning new strategies and continuing to utilize strategies that have worked is crucial. Below are a few strategies that often prove beneficial to family caregivers I've worked with...
1) Prioritize - part of being able to get through this difficult time is being able to identify what needs to come first, what can come second and what can be delegated to someone else. Without doing so, your world can suddenly seem as if it is crashing down all at the same time. Begin by identifying which days of the week are critical for you to be with your parent vs. your partner, and identifying which tasks need to be handled by you vs. handled by other individuals. Doing so can help maximize the quality time you have with your loved ones as opposed to spending it doing things that impede on that time (i.e. going to the pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)
2) Recognize Your Limitations - It is okay if you can't do it all because chances are, you can't! Asking for help, taking a break and accepting the fact that you are not a superhero are some of the challenges many family caregivers struggle with. This is generally the case when family and/or societal pressures are causing them to feel otherwise. After identifying some of the responsibilities you have, which you would love for someone else to do, the next step is to identify any individuals and resources that can help with those tasks and ask them. While it may, at first, seem like there is nothing/no one that can help, don't be so quick to make that conclusion. While you may have no one in your immediate family/social circle, don't discount the help you may be able to receive from your neighbors, local religious organizations and community agencies. Many family caregivers I've worked with are often surprised at how much is actually out there and in many cases often find out about the services after the fact.
3) Eat Well, Sleep Well and Cherish the Little Moments - There is a lot to be said about the power of good sleep, healthy eating and being appreciative. The amount of energy you exert in any given day to care for someone else is energy that has to be restored. Without tapping in to regenerating sources like sleep, nutrition and positivity, you are losing energy and will end up running on low. Thus, ultimately impacting how much you can physically and emotionally give to caring for your loved ones. While there are many techniques that can be utilized to enhance sleeping and eating habits, the first step is to acknowledge their importance and be proactive about incorporating it in to your routine. The same holds true for appreciating the positive things in your life, no matter how small.
Are you caring for a parent and a significant other? How are you managing? Please share any insight or questions you have below. I also welcome any questions you may have.