Caring for Mentally Ill Clients

  • Observe clients carefully for changes in condition or abilities. Document and report your observations.
  • Support the client and the family.  Coping with mental illness can be very frustrating.  Your positive, professional attitude encourages the client and the family.  If you need help coping with the stress of caring for someone who is mentally ill, speak to your supervisor.
  • Encourage clients to do as much as possible for themselves.  Progress toward independence may be very slow.  Be patient, supportive, and positive.
  • Help preserve the mentally ill client’s role and authority in the family.  Remember that you are not replacing the client.  You are only filling in until the client is well enough to resume his or her role in the family.

Abilities vary among people who are mentally ill.  Clients should do as much as possible for themselves. However, a stable home environment is important in managing many forms of mental illness.  By assisting the family with meeting their basic needs, you help the recovery process.  This is true even if your care is not physically directed to the recovering person.  For example, knowing that their children are being well cared for can greatly assist persons being treated for depression.

Carefully observe a client.  Do not draw conclusions about the cause of the behavior.  Report the facts of your observations, including what you saw or heard, how long the behavior lasted, and how frequently it occurred.  Report any of the following behavior:

  • changes in the ability to function normally, or in accordance with past behavior
  • positive or negative mood changes, especially withdrawal
  • behavior changes, including changes in personality, extreme behavior, or behavior that does not seem appropriate to the situation
  • comments, even jokes, about hurting self or others
  • failure to take medicine or improper use of medicine
  • real or imagined physical symptoms
  • events, situations, or people that seem to upset or excite clients