*Throughout this report, reference is made to 'he' or 'she' when talking about a person who has Bipolar Disorder. It can be either, and using one term or the other is merely for the sake of convenience. These suggestions are meant for anyone, male or female, who is suffering from Bipolar Disorder, and his (or her) family and friends.

Are you a long-term supporter of someone with Bipolar Disorder? Are you having difficulty in figuring out exactly what needs to be done to properly care for this person and give them the best possible help? Are you frustrated because you can’t get your loved one to a healthy functioning level and it is affecting your own life?

If you are, you’re not alone. According to an article featured on the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) web site, Bipolar Disorder affects approximately 2.3 million adult Americans—about 1.2 percent of the population. The article also adds that men and women are equally likely to develop this debilitating illness. That means out of those 2.3 million adult Americans, some are being cared for by people like yourself, some are being cared for in hospitals or assisted living facilities, and some are not being cared for at all. Responsible people like you, who care and love someone with Bipolar Disorder, need advice and resources in order to properly cope, manage, and provide proper lifelong attention to someone with this illness.

Here is the help you need. In this article, we are going to provide you with detailed information on the following life-saving topics:

  • The need to understand and realize that the illness is forever
  • The need to invest in better treatments
  • The need to focus on finding better healthcare options
  • The need to find the necessary financial means to properly treat the illness and maintain living expenses
  • The need for a financial planner
  • The need to focus on time management skills
  • The need to thoroughly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of your loved one receiving federal disability benefits
  • The need to have all legal documents prepared
  • The need to not make the illness your only focus in life
  • The need to learn new techniques for being a better supporter
  • The need to avoid being co-dependent
  • The need to not let your guard down
  • The need to maintain and enforce all of the techniques that contributed to getting and keeping your loved one healthy
  • The need for you to take care of yourself

Understand and Realize that Bipolar Disorder is Forever

Bipolar Disorder, without a doubt, is a lifelong illness. This means that the person you care for absolutely must, for the rest of his life, take proper care of himself by taking all medications as prescribed by a psychiatrist, seeing a psychiatrist and/or therapist on a regular basis, taking proper care of his physical condition by exercising and having healthy eating habits, and avoiding stress as much as possible. All of this must be done with the understanding that the illness is for the rest of your loved one’s life so that manic or depressed episodes can be prevented or eliminated altogether. There is no cure. But, it can be treated.

As a supporter, you must understand and realize this about your loved one’s illness for the rest of his life, even when your loved one is properly taking care of himself, feeling well, and living a happy, healthy life. If you don’t, it is most likely that you and your loved one will experience health, financial, and social consequences – even death due to the high suicide risk associated with Bipolar Disorder.

Once you understand and realize that the illness is lifelong, you must make it clear and understood to your loved one. People with Bipolar Disorder tend to think they are okay once they are being properly treated and they feel better – so they stop treatment. These people do not understand that the nature of the illness is lifelong and they put themselves and their supporters at risk. For this reason, make your loved one know and accept his illness and the proper treatment he must be compliant with in order to stay healthy.

There is no room for denial with Bipolar Disorder – for you or your loved one.

Invest in Better Treatments

As a lifelong supporter, your loved one with Bipolar Disorder will need help in investing in better treatments, meaning better psychiatrists and better therapists. Your loved one will need the best treatments available both when the decision is finally made to get him the proper help that is needed (which, most likely, will be during a major, full-blown episode) and after your loved one is stable and healthy – for the rest of his life. By the time proper treatment is sought, your loved one has probably destroyed his finances, is unable to find doctors himself, and is in desperate need of proper assistance.

Your role is to provide that necessary care in its critical moment – and then continue with that support in investing in better treatments for the rest of your loved one’s life. You have to do your research, make phone calls, talk to professionals, and get vital information about psychiatrists and therapists in your area. You need a psychiatrist and therapist that specialize in Bipolar Disorder. They must provide proper time and attention to your loved one. They must have the most updated knowledge of all the best medications and therapies for Bipolar Disorder. Talk to them, ask them – and if you don’t like their answers, move on to someone else. It is essential that you do this to get your loved one healthy and keep them that way. Without the proper treatments, your loved one will, sadly, never be able to obtain and keep a healthy functioning level for the rest of his life.

Here’s what to look for in psychiatrists and therapists:

  • How long are the sessions?
  • What are the medication plans?
  • What kind of therapy is going to be provided?
  • Are life management skills taught?
  • Do they offer career advice?
  • Are vitamins and minerals used in conjunction with medications?

The last thing you need to consider is how you are going to pay for the better treatments. Hopefully, your loved one has or had a job that provided full medical benefits. If not, be prepared and decide that you will adequately invest in the proper and best care for your loved one. Realize that this is a decision that needs to be committed to for the rest of your loved one’s life.

Focus on Finding Better Healthcare Options

Along with finding the best treatments comes the reality of finding the better, most affordable healthcare options. You and your loved one are going to face some challenges in finding good health insurance. As mentioned above, hopefully your loved one already has full medical benefits and is able to maintain his job to keep the medical benefits or has had to leave the job and you are able to handle the COBRA payments. But, what happens when the term of the COBRA benefits runs out? What do you do if your loved one doesn’t have medical benefits?

If your loved one has health insurance through COBRA benefits, you will have to make plans on what to do when the term runs out. You are going to face the problem of your loved one having a pre-existing condition, which most health insurance companies will not cover for up to two years of opening a plan. Some health insurance companies will allow the pre-existing condition in the health plan if you let your COBRA benefits run out to the last month of coverage. You have to do the research here and find the best health insurance company that will always cover your loved one’s illness.

The other option is for your loved one to find a job that provides good healthcare benefits when he is able to work again. If your loved one is unable to work and doesn’t have COBRA benefits, you have one last option if your loved one qualifies – Medicaid. Check into Medicaid benefits, what the requirements are for receiving Medicaid, and be sure to find out what psychiatrists and therapists are available through Medicaid.

Understand that finding better healthcare options will be an ongoing process that will last for the rest of your loved one’s life.

Find the Necessary Financial Means to Properly Treat the Illness and Maintain Living Expenses

As a lifelong supporter of someone with Bipolar Disorder, finances are going to be a major concern. You have to consider all of the medical bills, the fact that your loved one may not be able to work at a full-time job and also has accumulated major debt due to manic episodes, and the unavoidable necessity to maintain living expenses.

You have a few options to consider when deciding how you are going to pay for everything. First, evaluate if your income is adequate enough to maintain living expenses and treat your loved one’s illness properly. If it’s not, then you have to decide to find a better option like getting a higher paying job or starting a lucrative business.

If you decide to start a business, think about home-based business options that you and your loved one could manage together. You will save on leasing space, get tax savings, have the potential to earn more money, have better cost-effective healthcare options, and it will allow you and your loved one to reach your true full potential. Operating and managing a home-based business is something that can be done for the rest of both of your lives.

Get a Financial Planner

You will need a financial planner. Because of the nature of Bipolar Disorder and the effects of episodes, it is inevitable that your loved one’s finances will be in shambles in terms of way too much debt or even bankruptcy. A good financial planner can help you and your loved one not only get financially back on your feet, but also help you make long-term, lifelong financial plans regarding investing for profit and retirement.

Focus on Time Management Skills

It’s a fact – a person with Bipolar Disorder doesn’t have proper time management skills and has lost most of his life to manic and depressed episodes. Once the person is receiving appropriate treatment and is functioning at a healthy level, it’s time to make up for lost time and get moving. Get that person working, either at a job, in your own business, or volunteering. Create time for daily exercise, leisure activities, time with family and friends, and personal time. Get that person to manage their life the right way. Teach them time management skills. Teach them about work/life balance. Get them on a daily schedule that keeps them organized, productive, happy, and healthy. Do this for the rest of your loved one’s life.

Thoroughly Evaluate the Advantages and Disadvantages of Your Loved One Receiving Federal Disability Benefits

It’s the unfortunate reality – not all people with Bipolar Disorder will be able to work. This means that you will have to consider federal disability benefits for your loved one. It’s a tough decision to make, but a likely necessary one. First, consider if your loved one is able to work, either in your own business, at a full-time job, or even part-time. This is the best option for two reasons: (1) you and your loved one will receive more money if he works; and (2) receiving federal disability benefits can be detrimental to your loved one’s mental health, personal growth, and self-esteem.

If you are faced with the unfortunate reality that your loved one can’t work at all, you will need to consider federal disability benefits. But, do not allow the person to just sit at home watching television or searching the Internet. You need to get that person out into the world. Get them to volunteer for a couple hours a week, take a painting class, or take up a hobby such as writing. Doing this will surely help the person get healthier, and who knows, it may lead to potential money-making opportunities.

Always keep in mind that evaluation of the need for federal disability benefits and whether or not your loved one can work needs to be done for the rest of his life.

Have All Legal Documents Prepared

You need to prepare and keep on file all legal documents, such as an updated power of attorney, medical releases, wills, living wills, and healthcare directives. If your loved one gets sick, you need to have the authority to get him proper treatment, know what the treatment is, and have complete access to all finances.

Do Not Make Bipolar Disorder Your Only Focus in Life

At first, when your loved one gets sick and you are learning all about Bipolar Disorder, the subject of the illness will be your main focus. But, don’t let this last for a long period of time. You have to understand and realize that Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong illness that your loved one has that is being treated, but Bipolar Disorder is not what defines your loved one. Your loved one is a person with a unique personality, has interests and goals, and is capable of living a stable, healthy life. Surround yours and your loved one’s life with all that life has to offer, not Bipolar Disorder.

Learn New Techniques for Being a Better Supporter

As a lifelong supporter for someone with Bipolar Disorder, it is important that you are always learning new ways to be a better supporter. This means that you have to read good books on the illness, search the Internet for good web sites, talk to good psychiatrists and therapists, talk to a support group, talk to other people, such as friends, who also support someone with Bipolar Disorder. The information is out there if you devote time to finding it. Having the information will not only benefit your loved one, it will benefit you in the short- and long-term.

You will need to understand that learning new techniques for being a better supporter is a lifetime, ongoing process. New techniques are developed all the time and the only way to learn about them is for you to be looking for them. Be on the search – for the rest of your loved one’s life.

Avoid Being Co-Dependent

Never, at any point in your loved one’s life, allow yourself to become co-dependent. You are a supporter, not an enabler. You can’t allow your loved one to get away with things like manipulation, saying they can’t do things when they can, and not taking responsibility for their own lives. It is absolutely necessary that your loved one has the responsibility to get his work done efficiently and timely without excuses (if they work), go to his doctors regularly, get and take all medications as prescribed by the doctor, manage finances, and remain an active and productive person – all to the best of his ability. You can help the person in all of these areas, but do not allow yourself to do everything for the person if they can do it for himself.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

As a lifelong supporter of someone with Bipolar Disorder, it is imperative that you never let your guard down during your loved one’s lifetime. People with Bipolar Disorder can easily slip into their old habits, like not taking their medications, not exercising or eating properly, or exposing themselves to too much stress. This can lead to manic or depressed episodes.

Always be aware and knowledgeable of your loved one’s health status by making careful note of any changes in mood that seem to be leading to a manic or depressed episode. Do your best to not allow this to happen. The consequences, as you most likely know, are devastating to both you and your loved one.

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is probably the most important and essential advice you need. In order for you to properly support your loved one for the rest of his life, you have to be healthy, happy, and financially secure. Take time for yourself by exercising and spending time with friends and family. Spend time doing all the hobbies that you always have enjoyed. Eat right and take pride in your work. Essentially, you must maintain and keep a well-balanced life. Doing so will not only keep you on top of your life for your entire life, it will set an example for your loved one to try and follow, which can ultimately be a blessing for his health. If you don’t take care of yourself, the reality is that you will lose control of your own life and health and will not be able to offer any support to your loved one.

Maintain and Enforce All of the Techniques that Contributed to Getting and Keeping Your Loved One Healthy

It is crucial that, as a lifelong supporter of someone with Bipolar Disorder, all of the successful techniques that you used to get and keep your loved one healthy are continued and implemented for the rest of his life. This means everything that this article discusses and any other technique that you have found successful for your loved one. If you do not use all of the necessary and successful techniques for the rest of your loved one’s life, it is inevitable that he will get sick, which is damaging to both you and your loved one.

You want to avoid this. You can do so by maintaining and enforcing all of the successful techniques – for the rest of your loved one’s life.