#74 - Caregiver Emotional & Mental Health
We know caregiver self care is important but we don’t do it. Why? What is the missing link between knowing what we should be doing and actually doing it?
Rose Reif, LPCA, CRC, BC-TM, is the owner of Reif Counseling Services. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a Qualified Developmental Disability and Mental Health Professional. She is also Board Certified in providing Telemental Health. Her clients are teens and adults with disabilities and caregivers.
In this episode on caregiver mental and emotional health, Kim talks about her own mental and emotional struggles and success the last 15 years as Rose identifies the missing link between knowing the importance of self care and actually taking action.
Mentioned in this episode:
Rose knew at a young age she wanted to be in the disability field. She worked as a case manager for a decade and saw the need for counselors who were willing to work with adults with disabilities. She saw the need in the community so she went back to school to get her degree and started her practice for adults with disabilities and soon after, caregivers were added to her client list
Common themes come up with parents who have children with special need such as anxiety, depression, unacknowledged grief, dissatisfaction in the way they are parenting, fatigue (including decision fatigue and compassion fatigue which we expand upon in minutes 14:20 - 18:30), and PTSD.
Most of the dialogue doctors and providers are giving parents focus on what to look for in their child and very little about what to look for in themselves that may indicate emotional and mental health is reaching an unhealthy place. Often it is ignored until it begins to impact physical health, which it eventually does.
When we fail to take the time to learn healthy coping mechanism, unhealthy ones emerge.
In minute 25:30 - 30:00 Kim tells the story of when this happened to her and the wake up call that taught her to respect stress.
Signs stress is getting to unhealthy and even dangerous levels are uncharacteristic irritability, headaches, muscle pain, restlessness, loss of focus, and unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol (be careful of the mom wine culture).
In minute 31:30 - 33:30 Kim talks about the time her physical symptoms sent her to Stanford Hospital for several tests and how all of the negative results made her angry because she did not believe it was stress.
The best way to approach your concern for someone who is showing signs of unhealthy stress is to stay observational and ask open ended questions. Minute 36:00 - 37:00 How Kim involved a trusted friend to help support her.
There are plenty of self care resources out there but why aren’t we doing it? Rose tells us how she is moving her clients to knowing self care is important to actually responding. Self care has to be automatic, guilt free, and so essential that we would never consider going with out it. Similar to brushing our teeth. We would never go an entire week with out brushing our teeth. Self care is not the glamorous images and instagram worthy moments it’s the boring stuff that is consistent and automatic. There are great tips in an article Rose wrote, How Special Needs Moms Can Create Self Care Rituals When Routines are too Much.
Minute 43:00 Kim shares a self care success story when she learned how to implement small, non glamorous routines during a stressful season and the difference it made in her emotional and mental health.
If you know a big transition is coming up that may impact emotional and mental health, make a list ahead of time that may indicate a breaking point.
Related LOMAH Content:
Episode #51 Aching Joy with Jason Hague
Episode #43 Closet Confessions of a Special Needs Caregiver
Episode #36 Trauma Indicators in Individuals with Special Needs with Dr. Daniel Hoover