My sister has bipolar and has no motivation to do anything for her or her five children. Yesterday, she accidentally locked my nephew in the car and it was no big deal to her. Another time she was about to feed the kids raw meat until I intervened and re-cooked it for them. My mom and I have to do everything for her while she just sits there and watches us. How can we help her to start functioning again?
Your sister is so blessed to have you in her corner. For everyone with bipolar disorder, there is a learning curve. I am now able to do things for myself that I once needed help with. Sometimes doing the little things (helping with laundry if she’s in a depressed mood swing or all the things you mentioned) can go a long way. At the same time, she needs to get treatment, which involves psychotherapy and (if prescribed by a psychiatrist) medication. Support groups and exercise can also be helpful. Developing individualized coping strategies over time (examples: music therapy, support network of friends and family, blogs like this one, Facebook groups, faith, etc) can help her become more functional over time.
Here are other things you can do:
- Educate yourself about the illness
- Listen—just having someone to vent to or cry to can be therapeutic
- Encourage healthy habits (sleeping on time, routines, eating healthy foods, consistent therapist appointments, consistently taking meds) and
- Watch for “triggers”—what precedes/causes her mood swings? Help her be proactive in seeking help before these episodes get out of control.
Every chronically ill person needs to develop a support network—friends and family she can rely on for help.
In the future, she may be someone who needs extra help during mood swings but is functioning “normally” half the time, or she maybe someone who consistently needs help. Time will tell. I cannot give you an easy answer. While I can’t give you guarantees, having a supportive family definitely increases one’s chances of managing bipolar disorder well. Here is an article that talks more about the role of family.