A report by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said that at least 8.4 million Americans care for an adult family member with an emotional or mental health issue, and nearly three quarters report that caregiving causes high emotional stress.
The data was collected from an online survey completed last September by 1,601 family caregivers. On average, they provide 32 hours of care a week, have done so for about nine years and, despite their advancing age, have made no long-term plans for their financially dependent loved ones. Many feel socially isolated.
Four in 10 caregivers struggled to find an accurate diagnosis for their loved one. Families whose loved one had found an accurate diagnosis reported that it took 11.8 years, on average, to get there.
As a result, many of these caregivers are working long hours trying to fill the gaps, and living with constant frustration. In addition to identifying common challenges facing caregivers of people with mental illness, the study offers a number of solutions to help families struggling with mental illness.
"We often forget that caregivers themselves are enduring trauma, anxiety, and depression as they work on behalf of a loved one," explains Paul Gionfriddo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health America. "Surveys like this help us to focus not only on the inadequacies in our system of services and supports for people with mental health conditions, but also on the inadequacies of the support we give to those who care for them."