What should I know to care for someone with bipolar I disorder?

To care for someone with bipolar I disorder, encourage them to take their medications as prescribed and to attend all counseling appointments. Remind them to do this even when they are feeling better to prevent episodes from recurring more frequently and severely. Be aware of the early signs of a manic or depressive episode so that you are ready to call the doctor and help identify various patterns or triggers to the episodes. For the severe episodes involved with bipolar I disorder, hospitalization may be required. Also, encourage your loved one to stop using drugs or alcohol, and remind them to get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
If you are caring for someone with bipolar I disorder, you should know that you can do a lot to help. Encourage this person to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Provide emotional support, listen carefully and be patient with them. Remember that people with this disorder may say or do things they don't mean. But if someone talks about hurting himself, be sure to contact his therapist or doctor. Being a caregiver for someone with bipolar I disorder can be stressful. Be sure to take breaks from providing care, and to care for yourself.
You can help them enormously. Frequently, it is the love of a spouse or family members that make the difference in outcome for someone with bipolar I disorder. Get a book or go to the web (there is great information on the NIMH site) and study up on bipolar disorder. Their symptoms can range from the very different extremes of mania and depression. Meet with their doctor and get permission from the person with bipolar I to be able to talk to their doctor at anytime. You may be the first one to notice onset of mania or depression and getting them to their doctor at the very beginning of an episode can be key to preventing it. They may not be aware that they are having symptoms and you can be invaluable in helping them monitor themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask them about suicidal thoughts. It is a very common and serious aspect of the illness. Be sure it is an acceptable and frequent topic. Study up on their meds and talk to their doctor about their meds. You can be invaluable in being sure they take them correctly and regularly. Help them maintain regularity in their daily schedules. A regular schedule of sleep and daily activities, and management of stress, has been shown to help prevent episodes. Lastly, just love them and be patient with them.

That this is a treatable condition and that most people with this illness, if compliant with well prescribed medications and reasonable lifestyle recommendations can live normal lives.



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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.