Being a caregiver means not just caring for an ailment, but the entire person, and that includes their mental health.
As such, it is essential to connect with the client and their family to recognize when there is a problem.
Mental health plays a critical role in the healing and overall well-being of a client and should always be monitored, but caregivers often forget about the other people in the home. The entire family can benefit from a caregiver’s awareness, not just the client.
The Calm Before the Inner Storm
Observation is the first step to monitoring mental health. Study the client and how they interact with their family and surroundings. Notice the foods they like to eat and how often.
Caregivers should keep track of the family members and politely ask questions. If you are in tune to the rhythm of the household, you will notice a change sooner and can intervene.
Recognizing the Signs of Mental Health Challenges
Some signs will be obvious, like the client no longer taking the time to shower daily. Other signs will be more subtle, like disinterest in a hobby.
Their actions or word choices may be different. Even a tiny change can be a clue.
It is your job to take note of the signs and manage accordingly.
Adjusting to the Situation
Mental health challenges do not only refer to being aware of the onset of depression. Guilt, anger and sadness from a loved one’s diagnosis can lead to manic or psychotic behavior. Recognize these signs, too.
Perhaps a mother sleeps on the floor next to your pediatric client and is determined to never leave their child’s side. Maybe a spouse refuses to help change their partner’s dressing and avoids any contact. This abnormal behavior needs to be addressed.
Taking Care of the Problem
For your client, document any changes in their behavior and notify the attending physician. If they are a minor, sit down with the family and discuss your observations.
Communicate openly with the client and gauge how they feel about your observations. Some clients may be embarrassed and will not want help while others might feel relieved you noticed. The client could tell you they are fine and deny any change at all, shift the blame or try to convince you otherwise.
Regardless of their reaction, the changes must be documented. It is hard, but being a caregiver sometimes means protecting your client from themselves.
If the change or behavior is from the client’s loved one, sometimes just telling them it is okay and normal to feel anger can make a difference. While adhering to HIPAA guidelines, tell them stories of other families you have known and how they dealt with similar situations, so they know they’re not alone. Recommend a trusted social worker or a support group for them to join.
Poor mental health can exhibit itself in many ways and often gets ignored in the busyness of life. I’ve seen mental breakdowns that lead to hospitalizations; it is a very real problem and should be taken seriously.
Just remember to prioritize your own mental health. Providing care is very rewarding, but it can also be stressful and draining at times. Having self-awareness of when you might need a break, or to take part in some self-care, is essential for you to be at your best for your clients.
Axxess Home Care, a cloud-based home care software, allows caregivers to document the point of care on any device and includes note templates for individualized documentation.