It's official. It's harder to be a caregiver for a person with a mental illness than for a person with dementia. Not that I would wish either on anyone.
A study from Concordia University, the University of British Columbia and AMI-Quebec released this month reports that being a caregiver for a person with a mental illness is a difficult experience often characterized by high levels of stress, self-blame, substance abuse and depressive episodes.
The finding that most surprised the researchers: how hard it actually is, the Montreal Gazette reports. "We found it (the level of burden) was substantially higher than for caregivers of dementia patients. They (the caregivers of the mentally ill) are extremely burdened and it constrains their lives," said the survey's lead author, Concordia psychology professor Carsten Wrosch.
Caregivers who do the best are those whose expectations for their own lives change the most. They are willing to drop career goals and even goals for vacation and travel. The caregivers who adapt also are those who use alcohol and drugs the least.
The scientists followed 121 people over a 17-month period. "Some people can disengage from unattainable goals," said AMI-Quebec executive director Ella Amir. "People who can do that move forward. People who can't adjust pay with their own well-being."