Here are ways that you can help someone with bipolar
Become educated. The first step is to
become educated about bipolar disorder, so you have
realistic expectations and coping options. There are books,
brochures, and videos on a variety of topics. We have Family
Profiles, (stories of people who cope with bipolar
disorder), a brochure, and other resources on our web site,
Make this is a family matter.
Acknowledge that one memberís depressive disorder affects
the entire family. Everyone in your immediate family needs
to learn about bipolar disorder, its symptoms and early
warning signs, how it is treated, and what the side effects
of medications may be. And to whatever degree possible, each
member should participate in the caregiving process.
Being a caregiver is stressful, and it is important that
family members discuss their feelings and opinions.
Sometimes it helps if a skilled family therapist facilitates
these discussions in group sessions.
Be a partner in treatment. Find the
right treatment for each individual bipolar sufferer usually
means going through a process of trial and error with
multiple different medications. Patients also need talk
therapy to heal. Finding qualified clinicians (e.g.,
psychopharmacologist, psychiatrist, psychologist) is
essential. As a family caregiver, you can help by
finding the best clinicians in your area, scheduling
appointments, keeping track of medications and making sure
they are taken as prescribed, and being an early warning
systems by reporting changes to the clinicians.
Meet with the patientís clinician. Make
sure to meet with the clinician treating your family member
from time to time. Try to go with your family member and if
needed, set up some appointments on your own. Although
clinicians have to maintain patient confidentiality, they
can listen to you and you can report issues you are having
caring for your family member.
Be understanding. Let your family member
with bipolar disorder continually know that you care. People
with bipolar disorder have negative thoughts and are
hopeless in a depressive state. They need to be reminded
that you and others are concerned about them and that you
are working together to help them get well.
Take care of yourself. Set healthy
boundaries on how much you do so you donít burn out. Take a
vacation from caregiving from time to time. Many caregivers
develop depression, so donít be afraid to seek medical help
for yourself. You also may need help processing and dealing
with your emotions.
Find social support. Dealing with
bipolar disorder can be lonely and isolating. Youíve watched
the healthy person you once knew deteriorate and suffer.
Your friends donít understand bipolar disorder, and it is
difficult for you to go out. Make sure you find sources of
support such as a bipolar support group in your area.
Develop a crisis plan. Talk to your
family member with bipolar disorder about what you will do
if the person becomes manic or suicidal. For example, some
people with bipolar disorder and their families decide that
it is best for the person with bipolar disorder not to use
credit cards. Also, determine what you will do if you need
to hospitalize the person. Put your plan in writing.
Have hope. Remember that in most cases,
bipolar disorder is treatable and can be stabilized. The
condition is usually cyclical, so be prepared for it to
worsen and/or improve at times. Finding the right treatment
can be a drawn out process, but in time, a solution will be