Mental illness is misunderstood, misrepresented and can be all-consuming, both to those who have it and those around them. Like the ocean's tide, it rises and falls in natural rhythms and just like in nature, moments of crisis can happen. These moments of crisis can occur when a person suddenly experiences worsening symptoms and may need more help than they are able to provide for themselves. During these times, support from family and friends is crucial to help a person navigate through the crisis.
So how does one prepare? What can be done? Like with any type of emergency, there are steps one can take to prepare for a mental health crisis. By being prepared, both the person with mental illness and those who love and care for them will be able to respond to the situation effectively and seek the necessary help.
The following are some key points for caregivers and their loved ones to consider:Financial Considerations
When someone experiences a mental health crisis, they may be suddenly unable to work or may encounter unplanned medical expenses. Having one’s finances in order can help reduce the impact of these financial stressors. This is a struggle for everyone, but much can be done with a bit of planning.
1. Proper Insurance: The person with mental illness may be covered through their work or through a family member’s insurance plan already. Ensure that the type of insurance covers that specific type of illness.
2. Eliminate debt: If possible, try to reduce debt with high interest rates, such as credit cards. Living within one’s means will also reduce financial stress.
3. Emergency saving fund: Over time and with effort, try and save three month’s worth of income. This will be invaluable when a crisis strikes, as it provides a safety net to help cover unexpected costs.Advance Care Planning
There may be times when a person with mental illness needs help to manage their treatment and their personal affairs. Trust is paramount when choosing someone to represent their best interests and planning ahead of time ensures that everyone is clear about who will do what. This often involves many conversations and some difficult decisions.
1. Power of Attorney: This is the legal right for another person to act on a person’s behalf for business or personal matters. It is a legal document and due to the potential for fraud, a bank may insist this is set up ahead of time while the person is stable in order for it to be accepted. This may be true for other institutions as well. When in doubt, contact them ahead of time so there are no surprises when a Power of Attorney is needed.
2. Representation Agreement: This document gives another person the right to make health care, personal care and end of life decisions on one’s behalf. This may also include basic financial and legal decisions. However, complex financial decisions are extremely unlikely to be covered, as these matters usually require a Power of Attorney. Note that in cases of involuntary admissions under the Mental Health Act, Representation Agreements become void. In these emergency circumstances, the goal of the medical staff is to administer whatever treatment necessary to get a person well as quickly as possible and back to the position of being able to make decisions themselves.
3. Advanced Directive: This is a set of instructions to be given to a person’s health care provider. They must follow it directly if a person becomes unable to give instructions themselves. For example, this may include instructions about medical procedures a person will or will not accept. A representative may not be asked to make a decision if the person’s wishes are clearly stated in the Advanced Directive and relevant to the situation.
4. Children: If a person with mental illness has children, it is important to plan who will be taking care of them and under which circumstances. Ensure that everyone, including the children, know what to do and who to call should a mental health crisis arise. Medical Considerations
1. Medical Conditions: When it comes to medical considerations, it is important for a person with mental illness to be open and honest with those that care about them, as this information could affect treatment or health care decisions. For example, do they have a pacemaker? An allergy to certain medications? A heart condition they haven’t told their family about?
2. Prescriptions: Make sure that the person’s partner, representative and family know what prescriptions they are taking, as well as the dosage. Make a list of medications with the relevant information and ensure that members of the person’s support system know where to find their medication. Side effects for medications vary and a person may not be able to take part in some activities. It is important to get to know the benefits and drawbacks of each medication, because the more one knows, the better one is will be able to manage and recover.
3. Medical History: Having one’s medical history readily available can be useful. Although this may not be necessary, a person does have the right to view the information in their records through the Personal Information Protection Act. Consider making a digital copy for travelling.
There's a lot of information to cover, more than a person can easily remember. It may be helpful to have a portable file folder with all these documents and information ready to go. Include contact information for a person’s work, family doctor, psychologist and/or psychiatrist. Keep this folder in a safe spot, and where family members and caregivers can easily find it. Additional Resources
Advance Care Planninghttp://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/pub ... gGuide.pdfhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BD9yJJ ... e=youtu.beMedical Recordshttps://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Di ... th-Law/421