Caring when living with your loved one who is suffering from mental health difficulties might be difficult at times, but what happens when you do not live with your loved one? What do you do? How do you check on how they are?
Carers come with many tools to help them in their role, some are easily obtained while other tools take time to appear and can take even longer to use well. Some tools are more of use to carers who live with who they are caring for, but there are many different types of carers.
Who are the different types of carers?
Some are young carers who are caring for parents or those older than themselves.
Others are carers who not only have to look after themselves, but look after someone else.
We also have older carers, family carers, foster carers, neighbours who help with care and many more types of carers, but what about distant carers?
What are long distant carers?
These carers do not live with who they care for and there are many reasons why, which I will list below.
- They have moved on with their own families.
- These carers never lived with who they care for in the first place, but try help provide care.
- Work has forced the carer to move away.
- Family relationship breakdown.
- The long distance carer is caring for more than one person, one far and one near.
…..and I am sure there are many more reasons.
Well this tool which I am going to explain is the most easiest to use, but does lead on to other difficulties which carers will need to be aware of.
So ok lets get on with it, What is this device? Well this useful device is none other than the phone.
If you are over in the UK you may have noticed quite a few mental health organisations highlight the importance of talking, especially when breaking down mental health stigma and one of them is “Time to Change“. Time to Change is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.
They run many campaigns each year and one of their biggest campaigns was the “Time To Talk” campaign, where people would just at least try look out for each other just by talking. It all seems so simple doesnt it? All we just need to open our mouth and speak about how we feel or ask how someone else is, but unfortunately this is not the case and here are a few reasons why :-
1) If it was so simple then Time To Change would not need to work so hard to remind people that talking is so important, especially about reducing mental health stigma and as a form of healing ourselves
2) If talking was so simple, then we would not have to be reminded that as a society that we need to check up on people, especially older people who are a “growing” population not just in the UK, but around the world and many in the UK are becoming even more isolated, with no one to talk to.
3) If talking was so simple then people especially in the UK would talk about their feelings. Alas this is not the case, men especially being the ones who bottle things up and this is one of the worst things to do, which is perhaps why males are 3 times more likely to be more successful in taking their own lives.
4) Other organisations like “The Samaritans” use the phone as one of their main weapons in combating suicidal problems especially when people feel alone, isolated or have no one left to turn to.
So you can see the importance of not only talking, but using the phone to check up on your loved one. Still, picking up the phone and ringing someone who you need to check up on is only the start of the task. Long distant carers need to be aware of the following.
1. How often they should phone
The thing with using such a device as a carer is do you ring every day? Or once a week? As a carer you do not want to bother the person to the point that they do not answer the phone, but then you also do not want to leave things so late that the relationship becomes even more distant.
The thing a long distant carer needs to work out is how bad the condition the person is. If someone is emotionally at their worse you may wish to increase the amount of time you call them.
However if your loved one seems to be getting on with things, then you perhaps may call them once a week. This all depends on how your relationship is with the person you care for.
2. What to say when on the phone
This again is not as easy as it seems. Obviously one of the best way to start a conversation is
“Hello, I am just checking to see how well you are”
Of course I am no expert on phone conversation, but to be honest if you are caring for someone, then why not be honest about it? This is your relationship with your loved one and you ARE actually checking to see how they are. Sometimes this is not so easy when talking to someone having mental health difficulties, so you may want to give them some space and let them talk to you on how they are feeling. For them to open up to you is usually about trust, which is one of the hardest things for many who have a mental health condition.
Carers who even live with their loved one may struggle with trust issues, because one of the reasons could be mental health stigma where their loved one does not want to let others know they are suffering from mental health problems and this could range from depression all the way to bipolar. Some mental health conditions are so devastating that the loved one cannot communicate their distress.
I find asking short questions and asking how the person feels about their day usually helps, conversations should be about learning more about each other, forming a relationship and empowering each other. People can heal themselves so much if they let go of what is hurting them inside, but because of trust issues, many keep this all in.
3. What to do when they find out things are not going well
If you are a long distant carer, then this is one of the things you worry about in the back of your mind. To be honest there is not so much that can be done unless you manage to phone and catch the problem before it gets worse. The best thing to do is form a network of friends, neighbours or family who may live closer by your loved one. However to catch a problem or find out if a situation is getting worse, you have to phone and watch out for the signs beforehand.
Using the phone near or far
You do not have to be a long distant carer to use the phone in order to help care or check up on your loved one who may suffer mental health problems.
There are other reasons to use the phone as well, which I have listed below.
– You can use the phone to talk to someone when things are difficult for yourself
– You can use the phone even if you live with who your care for
– You can use smart phones to send text messages to your loved one, even if the relationship might be strained.
– Use the phone to help get information on how to care
Even if things seem OK, phoning someone can alert you to problems before they arise and even if everything appears fine, then you know you are continuing the relationship as a friend or carer.
Using the phone is just one of the very important tools a carer should get used to. Even if it is used to aid with care or aid the carer themselves.
So if you have not phoned someone for a long time, maybe reading this blog post is a good reminder……