In the last few years we have gained awareness of the various needs that individuals with mental health issues need in order to achieve overall well-being. Many times, we talk about the importance of medication, individual counseling, family counseling, and, socialization.
Those are all of extreme importance when it comes to mental health but the one service that seems to be forgotten is care management. A lot of people attribute care management services to individuals who are aging or who have chronic medical conditions. Although, care management can be very helpful for those issues, we also see a huge need for intense care management for individuals who have a chronic mental illness and cannot get access to any services. It is not a secret that severe and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and major depression can require intense care management and advocacy.
Just as a refresher, the duties of a mental health care manager include:
- Acting as a connector between the individual and the community resources
- Advocating on behalf of the individual so that he or she gain access to needed quality services
- Overseeing the care of an individual including medication management, doctors' appointments, therapy, psychiatric services, and anything else related to their care
- Connecting the client's family to support services such as individual, family, or group counseling
- Being an advocate if there is need for hospitalization to ensure the safety of the client and their family members
- Facilitating access to needed benefits
- Assisting the individual with navigating all the different services so that it does not become overwhelming for them
- Crisis intervention
- Alleviating family members of some stress regarding the care and wellbeing of their loved one
- Coordinating for advanced planning for the individual
- Connect individual with social services and programs
- Any service that the person may need the care manager will make that connection.
As professionals in the field of mental health, we see that families with loved ones living with a mental health condition often want an immediate and instant "fix" for their family member. It is important for them to keep in mind, that a mental illness is a lot like a physical illness that needs constant care. This is not to say that you cannot live a "normal" life with a mental illness however extra care is needed. In addition, as family members it is important to remember that you also have a vital role in the recovery of your loved one. The more involved you are, the more likely your loved is to recover.
There is a lot of value in having a care manager involved in the care of your loved one with a mental illness. A care manager will initially do a full initial assessment of your loved one's needs and wishes and will explore what services can add value to the life their life. They will explore the physical, psychological, social, and emotional well-being of your family member and will assess for possible gaps that need to be filled. For example, your family member may be living with schizophrenia and has been in and out of the hospital while being non -compliant with medication. Once this happens we know that your loved ones has probably had many psychotic episodes resulting in severe impaired functioning. Therefore. he or she may need home care services to assist with activities of daily living such. However, every case is different some more severe than others.
Another common case for care management is one that your adult child has recently been diagnosed with a mental illness and you as parents / family members do not even know where to start. In cases like this, the care manager steps in and coordinates for all initial care. When this occurs we often see a sense of relief in our family members as they often will say "I do not even know how I would have started this process without you". A care manager is also a huge support system for the individual as they now know that they have an advocate overseeing their needs and wishes.
It is important to remember that living with a mental illness or having a family member with a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. In addition, the diagnosis of a mental illness does not mean that the person's life is over as many people mistakenly think. We have worked with many individuals and their families as they cope with diagnoses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and many others. The beginning of the process is usually made up of what we like to call growing pains full of discomfort. It is important to note that many of our clients with these diagnoses live normal lives but are able to do so because they gained access to the resources in the community. One very important step is accepting the presence of this new diagnosis and what it may mean. Another important step is realizing that you may need the help of psychiatric and / or home care services. It is important to act as early as you can, as early intervention can lead to the best results.