Caring for a Service User with Mental Health Issues

For a homecare assistant, looking after someone with a mental health condition or illness can involve wearing many hats. Your role will have a lot of variety, plenty of challenges, and a great many rewards.

You’ll play a big part in their recovery, learn to spot the signs when they’re becoming unwell, and be able to tell which treatments benefit them most. In short, you’ll be the person who helps them get the most out of life, which is something to be proud of. The following advice will help you get the most out of your care relationship.

Take time to understand their diagnosis. Before you start your care placement, it’s worth doing a little research to give yourself some insight into the issues the person you will be caring for is facing. Take a note of the potential symptoms, and learn which behavioural issues you might encounter. Of course, it’s also important to remember the person you care for may not be a ‘textbook case’ of the conditions they’ve been diagnosed with.

Patience is a virtue. When someone is suffering with mental health issues, it can often take time for them to recover. And recovery isn’t always linear. They may seem better one day, and worse the next. Being patient, understanding that recovery doesn’t follow a straight path, and accepting a person’s behaviour is sometimes out of their control, is important.

Expect challenging and complex behaviour. At times they may say hurtful or upsetting things to you, act violently and demonstrate challenging behaviour in public. This can cause stress between you, but being prepared, and learning to understand what triggers their behaviour, will help.

Learn to develop strategies that benefit both of you. If they are able, encourage the service user to be independent. It might be easier for you to wash the dishes, for instance, but if you can get them to do it, this simple task may help them feel more independent and give them pride. Don’t let them become reliant on you, this will ultimately hinder their recovery.

Encourage them to take an active part in their recovery. Make social plans, help them arrange to see friends, and attend day centres. These kinds of everyday activities can play a part in encouraging recovery from their mental health difficulties. Even going for a walk and enjoying the fresh air can help someone to feel more a part of society.

Look after yourself. Being a carer can often mean all your energy goes on attending to the needs of others. However, it’s vital you look after your own mental health and wellbeing too. Care is a challenging career at times, and some days things will go badly, even if you’ve tried your best. That’s the nature of the job, and that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. If you find yourself struggling to cope, reach out to a peer, a friend or a professional organisation – after all, your welfare is important too.

We care about your career

CRG Homecare has opportunities for talented care assistants. Find a job near you on our job search page.

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