How can I care for my brother, who has mental health issues, from a distance?

5 answers | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I take care of my brother who lives alone far away ? He has a very successful academic track through out and immediate after his Doctorate in Physics, got a faculty position in a very reputed college in CA. He was and introvert from his early childhood and always looked at life from a different angle. Because of his immense depth of mind and seclusive nature, he could not socialize himself. Now this has been proved fatal. He wants to mix up but can't. He is suffering from loneliness, depression, social withdrawal and sometimes panic attacks. He is not even able to continue his job at this moment. He has lost every interest in the positive sides of life. He is under medication and sleeps almost all day long. Please help me to help a brilliant mind. Can web cam contribute something? Can I do anything that will really help a person who , through out his life tried to help others without any self-interest? Please answer me.

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

It is difficult to provide care for a relative who lives far away. From what you have said, I suspect your brother has had mental health issues most of his life; his tendency to isolate himself socially and to look at "life from a different angle" and seclusive nature indicate that he may always have been mentally unstable, and that these tendencies have escalated in recent months.

You said that he is taking medications. That means he must be under a physician's care. I suggest that you contact the physician and ask if he knows the extent of your brother's decline. If your brother was awake and working, and now is unable to function, that represents a significant decline that needs medical attention.

You may need to be prepared to petition that he be hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for observation, even against his will. This will give mental health doctors an opportunity to evaluate him and prescribe medications that will help him regain his balance.

In addition to this formal attempt, you can also help by letting him know that you care about him. Call frequently; leave messages if he does not answer. Send greeting cards telling him that you love him, write letters reminding him of fun vacations or funny times with your family. People who are severely depressed often believe that there is nothing good in life, no reason to get out or eat or take care of themselves. By telling him often that you care, you are reminding him that there continues to be purpose in his life. By reminding him of funny times or sending humorous cards, you cause him to smile. Humor is healing.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Having two siblings in this condition that I now have guardianship of I can honestly say it is difficult but possible. Stay in communication with your brother by phone and greeting cards regularly and in contact with a neighbor or trusted friend or in my case I am in touch with their caretakers on a regular basis. (Our parents just passed this year so I am their lifeline) When I send a greeting card it lifts my own spirits too. The Christian Bookstores and some cardshops have boxed greeting cards with uplifting sentiments. I preaddress a box to each sibling and send them weekly and add a brief note. This is easier on me than trying to think of another positive note to keep sending. They do get down so easily but knowing that it is hard to bring them happiness can really get me down too so having these cards available really helps us all. I get the benefit of the fresh thought when I read it and pass it on to them.I have met with the caregivers and by discussing my siblings care openly in the presence of my siblings we all trust each other. Their medication must be stabilized and carefully monitored. It can get me down but I feel better knowing they are cared for by staff that do their jobs well. They do their own jobs more confidently and efficiently knowing that I trust them. I have the support of my family and spouse too. My sibling are also fifty and fifty five so we are running into elder care issues as well as the psychiatric condition. Other aspects of health care are needing attention such as vision, dental, diabetes, heart etc. Some of these are a result of medication too, so there is a lot to learn. I am looking for a good source book to guide me on these matters. I have also put together some simple scrapbooks of pictures of all us during happy times. It helps their caretakers to see them in these past situations to remind them of their family and good memories

Lona schuyler answered...

You are in a difficult situation. Contact with other people along with exercise is important to work one's way out of depression. Most likely, this is remedy will be opposed.

Have you considered a home care agency? Do you think that having a certified person in the home on a regular or semi-regular basis might be good for your brother? Insurance usually requires that the person needing care has self help issues in order to qualify for this service, but it sounds as if your brother could afford this help.

There are assisted living facilities, and I have seen some very nice ones for well educated people. Individuals have their own apartments, but also have opportunities to mingle with other people for exercise classes, lectures, dinners, outings, music, plays, etc.

A social worker might have good suggestions about what is available in your community.

Also, so that you don't have to worry, can you encourage him to carry a cell phone, so that he can call in an emergency.

I don't know the extent of your brother's depression. In the worst stages, it can be deadly. An evaluation is approprite, even though it might be difficult to convince him of this.

Technology may be available. I'm sure there are books on the subject of depression, perhaps ones that he can read himself, so he gets involved in planning for his own recovery.

I wish you the best, Lona

Rechalchristine answered...

You can use essential oils. Add few drops of essential oil to water and use it as room freshener. It has a beautiful fragrance which will help him relaxed. Give frequent aromatherapy message so that it will boost up his mood. Essential oils like jasmine and lavender are most preferable. Best example which I can give you is that since ancient times, aromatic plants have been used for religious and spiritual purpose. These fragrances are offered to gods and it builds up a spiritual environment. From aroma plants essential oil is extracted .So it will surely show an improvement in his behavior.

Friendly traveler answered...

If your brother is able to study, I would have him read the New Testament portion of the Bible. The perfect wisdom expressed within will act as a guide, leading him gently toward the Light, in the midst of his inner turmoil. Worked for me!