Tips for Caring for Someone with Bipolar

Caring for an aging parent with bipolar disorder can be difficult. Learn about the symptoms, challenges, and strategies for coping with this mental illness and providing safe care for your loved one. Find support and resources to help you through the process.

Tips for Caring for Someone with Bipolar
Caring for a Loved one that has Bi Polar Disorder? 

Caring for someone with bipolar ( also known as manic depression) has its challenges. Especially if you are caring for an agog parent with bipolar disorder. The moods vary so much, from the highs of mania, to the very lows of severe depression.

The family caregiver already has difficulty dealing with being isolated and overwhelmed. Providing care for the aging senior can cause feelings of anger and hopelessness.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder ?

BiPolar Disorder in the Elderly 

Bipolar disorder is depression alternating with mania (elated or irritable moods and increased energy).

For at least two weeks, five or more of these symptoms:.

Feeling miserable and sad almost everyday.
Losing interest or pleasure in most activities.
Feeling anxious or irritable.
Having trouble concentrating or remembering.
Feeling tired.
Feeling guilty.
Sleeping too much or too little.
Eating too much or too little.
Have medically unexplained aches and pains.
Abusing alcohol or drugs.
Thinking of death or suicide.


At least three of these symptoms:.

Increased energy and decreased need for sleep.
Excessive irritability, euphoria, or aggressive behavior.
Increased talkativeness or pressured speech.
Disconnected and racing thoughts.
Impulsive behavior and poor judgment such as spending sprees, erratic driving, or sexual indiscretions.
Inflated self-esteem.
Increased goal-directed activities.
Signs of Suicide.

If someone has been preoccupied with thoughts of death or suicide, call his or her health care professional today. If you think the person may be harmful to you or others, call 911 or take the person to your local emergency room.

Other warning signs include:

Talking about hopelessness and worthlessness.
Suddenly being happier and calmer during a depressive episode.
Making unusual visits or calling people one cares about.
Making arrangements or getting one’s affairs in order.
Giving things away.

If someone is manic:

During mania, a person may become paranoid, believe ideas that aren’t based in reality, spend a lot of money, or engage in unsafe activities. Remember, that these challenging behaviors are part of a manic state. Your family member is not in a normal state of mind.

Try to prevent your family member from carrying out any unsafe actions should be approached with eye to eye contact.  While you may not be able to reason with your family member. A call to their psychiatrist is in order.

It is not always easy, but, your goal is to keep your family member safe. You also need to keep your family member and yourself safe.

Focusing on Cognitive Function with BiPolar Disorder in the Elderly

It is sometimes necessary when your  family member is in a manic state, to be hospitalized. Make sure you discuss the behavior and options with the , if possible before a crisis occurs so you can take appropriate action.

Caring for someone with any illness is difficult. Caring for someone with a psychiatric illness is especially hard for many reasons. Health care coverage for mental health issues is limited than for medical conditions.

Just getting someone who is in a state of mania– even when psychotic– hospitalized and accurately diagnosed is a major accomplishment. Those that suffer from bipolar disorders , particularly when they are in an up (manic) rather than down (depressed) phase, will often refuse to see a health care provider. Many  stop taking their medication.

The medications  that treat bipolar are powerful and have unpleasant side effects.  Finding the right medications may be difficult. As a person gets older, they may not respond to the medications in the same way.  Over time , the medications   may even stop working.

For family caregivers, coping with an aging senior, who is manic or depressed takes a heavy emotional toll . Providing  care can strain the relationship, to the breaking point. Many family caregivers  have the added burden of the stigma of mental illness. It is important that a family caregiver find a support group that will offer support – either online or in your local community.

Caring for an aging senior family member with bipolar disorder can be overwhelming. Many caregivers feel it is an impossible responsibility to maintain.

There are ways to cope effectively:

Become educated. The first step is to become educated about bipolar disorder, so you have realistic expectations and coping options for your aging senior.

Make this is a family matter. Acknowledge this disorder affects the entire family. As with many other caregivers of aging family members, it is important to ask each family member to assist in the caregiving process.

It is important to understand, that many family members step back and allow one family member to take on the burden of providing care.   Sometimes it helps if a skilled family therapist facilitates any discussions in family group sessions to do future care planning for the aging senior.

Be understanding. Let your aging family member with bipolar disorder continually know that you care. Individuals living with bipolar disorder have negative thoughts and are often in a depressive state. They need to be reassured that you and others are concerned about them and that you are there for them.

Take care of yourself. Consider a family caregiver contract.  Setting limits and boundaries on how much you will help you avoid caregiver burnout.  Take a vacation from caregiving from time to time. Many caregivers develop depression, so don’t be afraid to seek medical help for yourself. You also may need help processing and dealing with your emotions.

Find social support. Dealing with caring for anyone 24/7 can be lonely and isolating.  Your friends will not understand  aging and bipolar disorder.

Get all legal paperwork in order.

Most of all, remember, that you are not alone.  Remember that in most cases, bipolar disorder is treatable and can be stabilized.

Are you taking care of someone with BiPolar disorder or another mental health disorder? Please share your challenges here. Help others realize that they are not alone. Submit Your Caregiver Story
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