Parinita is suffering from drug-resistant schizophrenia. Her husband left her as her mental illness was kept under wraps at the time of wedding. Parinita's mother, who works in a garment factory, is her primary and only caregiver. However, if Parinita's mother accompanies Parinita for her routine check ups, she loses her day's wages. Shyamala, a friend of the family, takes over the responsibility and takes Parinita for her routine check ups. Shyamala has helped Parinitha secure a disability certificate. She also handles the legal hassles related to Parinita's divorce.
(This is a real-life case study narrated by a mental health professional. Names have been changed to protect privacy)
This case explains how a friend is helping a caregiver attend to her duties and share the burden of caregiving. Unfortunately, not everyone gets extra help like Parinita's mother does. Caregivers often juggle several tasks. In addition to caring for the person with mental illness, they work or study, manage the household tasks, and care for the needs of the entire family, among other things. Due to these additional duties, they end up spending most of their time caring for others, and little time on caring for themselves. This, over time, can cause caregiver stress. To cope with this situation, the caregiver can take the help of their immediate family, friends and relatives.
Help from family members
In traditional joint families, a caregiver gets help from other members to care for the person with mental illness. With urbanization, the size of a family has shrunk; nuclear families often lead isolated lives. This puts more pressure on the caregiver as they have little help. In such cases, the family members, even in nuclear families, could pitch in to share the burden of the primary caregiver.
For example, if a family has a mother, father, daughter and a teenage son with mental illness, and the mother takes up the role of the primary caregiver, the other members of the family (in this case, the father and the daughter) may not take up any caregiving duties. Over time, it can become stressful for the mother. Therefore, sensitization should begin from the family of the person with a mental illness. In such cases, the other members of the family could learn about the illness and offer to share caregiving duties based on chores or time (I'll take care of him in the morning, you can do it in the afternoon).
Helping as a distant relative or friend
If you have a relative or a friend who is a caregiver, you can help them in various ways:
Though you may be busy with your own life and activities, it can help if you give some time to your friend or relative who is a caregiver, in ways big or small, to ease their caregiving responsibilities.