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Published By Beth Lueders on May 03, 2016

With life wobbling out of control, Brianne knows she needs help. Mom’s recent death pushed the entire family into overload. Brianne is the main caregiver for her father who has dementia. The other siblings are of little help and are squabbling over Mom’s antique collectibles. Spinning in grief, fatigue and anger, Brianne feels she’s close to collapsing emotionally, but she’s unsure of where to turn for help.

Caregiving for a senior loved one is indescribably rewarding yet can get complicated with the myriad of responsibilities and family dynamics. Often, a family caregiver’s emotional strain is moved to the backburner. So how do you gain a better balance and not discount your mental and emotional health as you care for another? The Right at Home RightConversationsSM guide is an excellent place to start.

You also may need a safe place to vent, or perhaps you are dealing with depression or anxiety. A well-trained counselor may be the best avenue for you to voice your concerns and feelings and give you tools to become more self-aware and make positive changes.

A counselor can help you with the personal challenges you are facing and give insight on ways to take care of yourself while you take care of your loved one. Types of mental health professionals include the following:

            Psychologist—licensed professional in clinical psychology with a doctorate in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.).

            Marriage and family therapist—experienced counselor in marriage and family therapy with a master’s degree (M.F.T.).

            Psychiatrist—a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O) who specializes in mental health and can prescribe medications.

            Social Worker—licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) who holds a master’s degree in social work and undergoes clinical training.

Important considerations for the right therapist includes a sense of connection, trust and support. In your initial contact or first session together, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I feel comfortable sharing anything with the counselor?
  • Is the counselor a good listener who doesn’t constantly dispense advice?
  • Do I feel criticized or judged? Are my problems addressed or dismissed?

Many health insurance companies cover a limited number of counseling sessions. For direct-pay therapists, some will accept sliding scale payments. Be sure to check with local family service agencies, senior centers and mental health clinics for discounted counseling rates. Local churches and chaplaincy programs also may offer skilled counselors to community members for free or for a minimal fee.

For nationwide help in finding the best counselor for you, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website at eldercare.org or call 1-800-677-1116. Or, visit the Caregiver Support Services website at caregiversupportservices.org or call 402-960-0972.

What makes it challenging for family caregivers to safeguard their own emotional health?

An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.


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