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Lending Support to the Caregiver

caregiver blog photo.jpgChronic health conditions affect Americans in virtually all facets of society, causing many to experience physical or mental difficulties, and sometimes both. People with such difficulties often require a caregiver to assist with their daily functioning. These caregivers, often family members to the patient, take on not only their own responsibilities, but those of the lives of another, making way for a unique set of challenges for them to adapt to. With these excess stressors, peer support and understanding is paramount to the well-being of the caregiver.

This month we commemorate National Caregiver Month in recognition and support of all those who dedicate their time to ensure the well-being of another.

When an individual takes on the role of a caregiver, they often experience significant life changes – some leave their jobs, relinquish a personal hobby, or have less time to socially engage with others.   Life shifts such as these lead many caregivers to feel isolated or withdrawn, with some studies reporting that up to 50% of caregivers meet criteria for clinical depression (Medrano, 2015).  However, the role of a caregiver can be one of great personal fulfillment and importance, and while the majority of their time may be spent helping another, it is essential they take the time to tend to their own health and well-being.

If you are a caregiver for another, here are some tips to keep in mind to stay on top of your own personal needs:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Be sure to make time for your individual health needs and address them.
  • Ensure you have social support. Having close friends and family to share one’s concerns is crucial to maintaining a positive mentality.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. A variety of programs and interventions exist specifically geared toward caregivers and their needs.

Gustavo Medrano, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute. He specializes in working with individuals with depression/mood disorders, stress management and chronic illness and disabilities.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver in need of professional mental health support, or for additional information, please call The Family Institute at 847-733-4300.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Visit our website to learn more about our services. 

Mental Health Month: Ask a Clinician

To commemorate Mental Health Month, we asked clinicians a number of questions about mental health. Today, Sara Morrow, MSMFT, shares her reflections on mental health and offers helpful hints for working towards good mental health.

How do you define mental health?

My personal definition of mental health is the well-being of our emotional selves. Of course, this mental well-being can interact with out physical health (and vice versa!), and so it is hard to separate the two!

How are mental and physical health connected?

They are definitely linked! I work with a lot of anxiety and see this. It makes sense: if you’re always keyed up, tense, or on edge, this creates a feedback loop that the brain picks up on! This leads to a “vicious cycle” of body stress feeding into mental stress, which further exacerbates physical stress. And on and on it goes!

What are some tips for good mental health?

The “little” stuff matters: are you eating healthy, balanced meals throughout the day? Are you sleeping adequately? Exercising regularly? How much alcohol do you consume per week? Log all of these things for a week and see what the relationship is between these factors and mood.

Eraser deleting the concept Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD.As a Cognitive Behavior Therapist, you specialize in working with clients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What can you share with us about OCD?

I treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people feel shame around this disorder or think that everyone has “some” OCD to a certain extent, so why seek help? Doing a course of Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) can be very effective for OCD — and it is worth getting help for it as OCD can be very debilitating! I also encourage partners and family members to come into therapy to learn about the impact it can have on them and also how they can best handle and support their family member who is struggling with OCD. It impacts the whole system surrounding a person!


Sara Morrow, MSMFT, is a Clinical Program Fellow with The Family Institute in the Cognitive Behavior Therapies program. She has advanced specialized training in using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD).

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.

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