What happens when the caregiver is the one with a mental illness? My mother is 61 and was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years ago. She was in remission but the cancer returned recently. She's starting chemo and radiation in a week. I have bipolar disorder, which I've mostly been able to manage with meds, but am fearful that the stress involved in taking care of Mom is going to make me spin out of control. Is there anything I can do?
Hi whataboutme, you are amazing for asking this question. You already made the first step in realizing that you maintaining your own health and wellness is the best thing you can do for your mom. So kudos! Too many caregivers want to put themselves second, which ends up affecting their mental, emotional, and physical health. I think the first thing you can do is talk to your mom. Ask her what her expectations are in terms of caregiving. Too often, as children, we want to step in and do everything to help our loved one, but they are sometimes much more independent than we think they are. It's tied to our feelings of not doing enough as children. So I suggest talking to mom first and figuring out the best way of communicating between the two of you. Is it a phone call every day, does she already know exactly what needs to be done by others, how does she expect to be taken care of as she's going through treatment? And if an advanced health care directive has not been filed yet, I suggest doing that ASAP - in fact, doing that can actually touch on a lot of the questions from above. I would also suggest talking to your doctor and letting him know what your concerns are. Ask him/her for additional resources for you depending on what you like (support groups, books to read, blogs to follow, forums/groups to join online, etc.). I also suggest hiring a coach who knows how to work with a caregiver living with bipolar disorder and can offer an unbiased perspective on maintaining your health and wellness as your provide care. Hope that helps. Sending lots of love to you and your mom!