RESILIENCY – Using one’s Strength to Overcome the Challenges of Caregiving

Resiliency is an ingredient to be encouraged in a caregiver given the kind of challenges she faces vis-a-vis caring for a family member, neighbour, or friend living with mental illness. This means an ability to bounce back from difficult situations that inevitably arise when caring for a mentally ill family member.

Obstacles of external stress for caregivers which may challenge resiliency

  • Attitude of professionals
  • Failure to provide information and support
  • Misuse of confidentiality
  • Refusal to communicate
  • Failure to include family in the care
  • Attitudinal rejection
  • Blaming family
  • Societal (stigma which is transferred to the care giver)
  • Cultural attitudes towards families and ill members
  • Deficits of service system
  • Rejection; ignorance; negative expectancies of recovery

Obstacles of internal stress for caregivers which may challenge resiliency

Situational (home environment) feelings of loss, sorrow, grieving, empathic pain for ill member, negative effects on siblings; coping with assaultive and aberrant behaviour; fears for ill member’s future; ill member’s rejection of treatment.

Each of these can result in feelings of guilt, frustration, blame, anger, sadness, confusion and grief in the caregiver.

Suggestions to support resiliency 

  • Make it a priority to care for yourself
  • Be aware of what feeds you emotionally, physically, spiritually
  • Make a to do list and stick to it
  • Ask for help and shift priorities or even say no from time to time.
  • Set aside time for yourself without feeling guilty

Relieving caregiver burden
-concrete steps to consider for one’s self and from the society at large.

The following is an acronym to help caregivers choose activities which could help relieve their burden and support resiliency.

R….Recreation. Rest. Resources. Resiliency.
E….Education. Escape. Entertainment.
S….Support. Self help groups. Empowerment. Separation. Solitude. Set goals.
P…..Privacy. Participation. Pleasure.
I…..Information. Independence. Inclination.
T…..Talking with friends, relatives, colleagues, professionals.

Respite refers to any activity which can relieve caregivers periodically from the stress of their usual caregiving responsibilities.

It is important however to keep in mind that each situation is different and one way does not fit all. Each care giver has to assess her own strengths and unique universe, and act accordingly.

In a nutshell my suggestion to caregivers is to maximize your quality of life in order to feel the rewards of caregiving, avoid depression, and therefore have more to share with loved ones.

Moira Edwards. N; M,Ed;  Psychotherapist


LEFLEY H.P. Family caregiving in mental illness. Sage Publications, London, 1966