Understanding the Role of Family and Caregivers in the Rehabilitation Process

When an individual determines that a mental health rehabilitation facility is the best place for treatment, it’s not done alone.

The patient’s family, friends, and support system is integral to their ability to heal and focus on their treatment plan.

However, the ins and outs of how to support someone during their rehabilitation process isn’t always obvious.

If someone you care about is considering a rehabilitation facility, learn how you play a key part in their recovery.

1. Emotional Support

You’re likely one of the few people who know the patient receiving treatment the best. Whether they are your child, partner, or friend, you’ve seen them across the spectrum of health.

They look to you for reassurance, encouragement, and reinforcement that they’ve made the right choice to enter mental health rehab.

If appropriate, provide updates about life at home to keep them in touch with what they need to. If they have a child that’s in your care, reassure them that they are doing well and are content. Parents may question if their time away is a negative in their child’s eyes.

Let them know that their attention spent on healing now will yield long-term benefits, even while time away is painful.

Focus your efforts mostly on listening, and resist the urge to ask, “Are you okay?” Instead, be curious and ask open-ended questions and then wait for them to share what they want to.

Resist the urge to solve any problems, as their rehab team is best suited for that role. Share anything concerning with their treatment team to ensure they have the information to craft an effective treatment plan.

2. Advocacy and Education

Your loved one is the best place possible when they’re being treated at a qualified facility. But it’s important that their loved ones learn more about the mental conditions at play.

Tap into the resources provided by the facility, those provided by advocacy organizations, and from professionals.

Commit to learning about what your loved one is experiencing and how you can understand what it’s like for them.

Some mental health conditions are widely discussed while others are less understood. Collaborate with your loved one’s treatment team at their facility to understand the nuances of their condition.

Be your loved one’s advocate in their stead, too, as some individuals’ condition may make clear communication challenging.

Provide input and insight to their caregivers on their preferences, previous treatment plans, and comforts. Anything you can do to ensure their team is well-informed and equipped with lesser-known details, the better.

3. Participation in Treatment

In some cases, you may be asked to participate in treatment with your loved one. From group therapy sessions to scheduled visits or observations, be prepared to participate as needed.

This may require some travel or flexibility on your end, so keep that in mind while they are receiving care. Talk to your employer about using family medical leave in the event that the time commitment is significant.

Treatment doesn’t end when they leave the treatment facility; treatment continues at home. Collaborate with their treatment team to identify how to revise their home environment and other factors to their treatment plan. Sometimes, this means updating their daily environment, establishing new schedules, or accommodations.

Find out which ones will make the biggest difference and focus on those first. Some treatment recommendations may cause additional financial strain or stress on you, so pay attention to your wellbeing, too. Ask how you can support their recovery after they’ve been discharged and find resources for outpatient therapy now. Sometimes, this search can be extensive, so start planning now to reduce unnecessary stressors.

4. Caregiver Self-Care

Your loved one’s participation in treatment may expose vulnerabilities in yourself, too. This is especially prevalent if the burden of caregiving before treatment has been particularly taxing. Explore mental health therapy or counseling for yourself, too.

Therapy is for everyone, even if you feel like you’re not experiencing a specific concern. By caring for your mental health, you can provide the best support for your loved one without neglecting yourself.

The time commitment, in addition to the mental commitment, may render you exhausted as you support their recovery.

Divide and conquer tasks for your loved one among family and friends to reduce burnout. Ask others to coordinate childcare or transportation, and opt for grocery delivery instead of another errand.

Be open to hiring out for tasks that you’d otherwise do for yourself, especially if you’re caring for your loved one’s home, too.

The financial burden of caregiving can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you have to shoulder it alone.

Collaborate with your loved one’s closest network to take care of their home base. Use any regained time to pour back into yourself and your family instead of adding more to your plate. Tap into caregiver resources and support as soon as you feel it’s needed. Remember, caring for your well being is part of caring for your loved one’s recovery, too.

Actively Engage in the Rehabilitation Process

The role family members and caregivers play in the rehabilitation is vital for patients’ long-term success.

Outside of the treatment facility environment, real life stressors and challenges appear. When a patient’s family is engaged, educated, and understands their caregiver role, they can aid in the recovery process.

Take an active role in their journey to better mental health and empower them to achieve their rehabilitation goals.


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