"I think every person has days of mental health needs," said Paul Fisher, owner of SYNERGY HomeCare of Schaumburg. "Be aware of that. Take it into consideration. Take time to think about how others might be doing during a particular day or particular week. Give them some compassion that maybe they didn't expect. It goes a long way."
Paul and the caregivers in his company interact with people every day who face mental health challenges. Disability due to accidents, diseases, or the aging process impacts a person mentally, in addition to physically. Compassion is a crucial part of caring for people who rely on caregivers. “We try to let them know that there’s still a lot to do and a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy in life,” said Paul.
Numerous ideas and options help improve mental health. Above all, the strongest options involve interacting with other people. “Probably the best thing I’ve seen is socialization,” said Paul. Caregivers encourage those they care for to talk about family, friends, or even people in their neighborhood. The discussion helps them feel connected to the outside world.
Socialization out into the community is a more powerful method for improving or maintaining good mental health. “We try and do everything we can to get them out of the house and get them engaged,” Paul said. He mentioned one older woman who loves shopping. Caregivers help the woman to go out and visit stores. Even when she doesn’t buy anything, window shopping allows her to interact with store employees and people in the community.
An active mind supports good mental health. Paul said that sunshine, music, activity, reading, and anything that stimulates the mind will make for a better day. “Keep them engaged and keep them looking beyond the television set and looking beyond their four walls,” he said.
Often, people who need caregivers are still relatively young. Their mental struggle can be as difficult as their physical struggle. “They need to know the world hasn’t forgotten them,” said Paul. “They tend to feel that it has. They feel like they’re a senior citizen when they’re not. They’re in their 30’s and 40’s.” Getting out into the community and being as active as possible affects every aspect of their lives.
One younger man had a traumatic brain injury and was struggling both physically and mentally. His caregiver took him out several times each week and helped him to learn how to ride a bicycle again. Being out and being focused on something helped him feel like he had a purpose, which improved his overall mental and physical health. It took a long time, but the caregiver knew it was worth the effort. “The caregiver we had just stuck with him,” Paul said.
Caregivers work hard to help with both physical and mental support. Finding creative ways to help people engage with their community strengthens their mental health and their quality-of-life. "I’ve seen it," said Paul. “I’ve seen people go from tough states of depression and sadness to really looking forward to their caregivers coming and being a part of their day.”