Life has its ups and downs, and most of us are able to take the rough with the smooth without too much trouble. But some people are affected so deeply by accidents, the loss of a loved one and other traumatizing events that they end up becoming mentally disturbed. Sometimes it’s just a mild case of depression, but at other times and when combined with other factors, it could become really serious and end up causing a nervous breakdown, a situation where you’re prone to suicidal tendencies, are unable to function normally, are extremely stressed out, and generally live in your own world far removed from what is real and practical.
Most of us are dismissive about depression; we think that’s it’s easy for people to get over it and that all they need to do is stay positive, think happy thoughts and surround themselves with loved ones. But if you’re prone to any form of mental illness because of genetic and environmental factors, depression could be just the start of something potentially more dangerous. Any form of depression could lead to a nervous breakdown if:
- You have a strong family history of mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder and others similar to these.
- You have suffered an emotional trauma such as the sudden and tragic loss of loved ones or a recent separation from a spouse or significant other. The trauma need not be recent because post traumatic stress disorder could occur even years after the event usually because similar feelings are brought on by a trigger.
- You’ve had an unhappy and abusive childhood or youth and your adult life is affected significantly because of the same.
If you think a loved one is prone to a nervous breakdown because of these factors or similar others, it’s best to get them professional help. Therapy and counseling, in combination with medication, can help keep the brain balanced, prevent a nervous breakdown, and allow them to lead a near-normal life.
The fastest and surest way to prevent a nervous breakdown is to be aware of the risks and monitor the person who is at risk for the following symptoms:
- Severe and prolonged depression
- Insomnia and restlessness
- A complete lack of interest in anything, work, family, friends or any other activity
- Drastic change in eating and living habits
- Hallucinations and an overactive imagination
- Psychotic episodes that may or may not be violent
- The tendency to hurt themselves and others around them
- Paranoia and unnatural fears of people and things
- An addiction to alcohol or drugs
- Mania or sudden episodes of euphoria and the feeling that they can do anything they want
- Violent and frequent mood swings
In short, any abnormal behavior or reaction is cause enough for monitoring a loved one who has been affected by a recent trauma or who is going through an unreasonable amount of stress. The sooner you get them to therapy or counseling, the better for their mental and physical health.
Growing old is an inevitable part of life if you don’t die young, and even though we’re prepared to accept the changes that our bodies and minds go through, there comes a time when the elderly are forced to rely on the help of other people if they are to live in reasonable comfort. Some are lucky enough to be able to live with family members while others make do with a personal caregiver in the comfort of their homes. It’s only those who have neither of these options who move to assisted living facilities or a nursing home where they are looked after by healthcare professionals.
While most people would prefer to have their family look after them or hire a personal caregiver to do the job, there is one downside to this method of caring for the elderly – the caregiver’s life is affected more often than not. But if they are prepared and know what to expect, it could turn out to be a positive experience. So if you’re a caregiver for the elderly, here’s what you need to do to avoid stressing out and also doing the best you can for the person(s) you’re looking after:
- Don’t expect gratitude or appreciation: You may be doing your best to look after your charge, but that’s not to say that they’re going to show their gratitude or appreciation for you. While some people do so, others tend to be cranky and crotchety as old people are wont to be. So it’s best not to expect these attributes, even if they are forthcoming initially. If you look at what you do as just another job rather than as a favor for someone, you’ll do just fine. As time goes by, you’ll get used to their eccentricities, if they have any.
- Talk payment at the outset: While this is not an issue for total strangers or medical professionals (who are not family), when you’re a family member (as in a distant relative caring for your elderly great aunt or uncle), you must thrash out payment issues before you take up the position. This is a sticky issue, but the sooner you deal with it, the better you’re able to resolve it. Put your demands on the table and ensure that you are paid adequately because the money you make goes a long way in compensating the sacrifices you may be forced to make.
- Know where to draw the line: If you’re a family member looking after your mother, father, aunt or uncle, you’re doing so because you don’t want them to be all alone when they’re old and infirm. You go out of your way to make them comfortable out of the goodness of your heart. But if your charge(s) take advantage of you and demand all of your time and energy, it’s time to put your foot down and reclaim some of your life back. It’s best to do this at the outset so that they know where you stand. Make them understand that you will look after them well, but not at the cost of sacrificing your own life.
- Look after yourself: And most important of all, if you fail to take care of yourself and keep yourself fit and in good health, you fail in your duty as a caregiver. If you’re not in good health, you’re unable to look after your charge(s) and may be endangering their health and even lives. Also, set aside some time for your social life; interact with people of your own age, and take time to do the things that you want. Looking after the elderly is a job that tries the patience of even saints, so if you want to stick to it in the long term, you need to care for your mental, physical and emotional health first.