The friends and family members who care for vestibular patients provide essential support. Without firsthand experience, these individuals are challenged to learn about vestibular disorders in order to lessen the impacts of their loved one's illness. VeDA seeks to focus attention on this important part of our vestibular community and to support their efforts.
- Understanding what your loved one is going through
- A Patient's Message to Caregivers
- Take care of yourself
- Caregiver Survey
- About vestibular disorders
- Tools for planning and crisis management
- For Patients
- Learn about and participate in research on caregiving
Vestibular disorders can be difficult to understand if you are not the one experiencing the confusing and often debilitating symptoms. A vestibular patient may look normal to the observer, but their brain is on overload processing the conflicting information it is receiving from the eyes, inner ear, and body. In addition to the typical symptoms of a vestibular disorder - dizziness, nausea, imbalance, vertigo, tinnitus, and migraine, just to mention a few - many vestibular patients have a difficult time concentrating, some experience anxiety from not knowing when their next vertigo attack will occur, and most deal with some form of depression due to the loss of their independence and other factors.
One of the best things you can do as a caregiver or friend is to be patient and accept that, even if you don't understand what your loved one is going through, their symptoms and feelings are real. There are many things a vestibular patient can no longer do, which directly impacts their friends and family. You will be best able to support your loved one if you learn about their condition and listen to them when they explain how they are feeling and what they need to manage their symptoms.
Anxiety - Is It Normal?
Vestibular disorders have real, physical symptoms that often cause patients to behave anxiously, which can be worrisome for their loved ones, especially when that behavior is different than the patient’s “pre-vestibular disorder” behavior. Sometimes it is useful to determine if worrying has become excessive to the point that it can be defined by a clinically diagnosable mental health condition so the patient can be encouraged to seek help. It is important to remember that labeling the patient’s condition is not intended as a judgement. Whether or not a vestibular patient or their loved one receives a mental health diagnosis, they can still benefit from professional counseling to help them cope with the intense and understandable changes these conditions impose on their lives. Click here to learn more about anxiety disorders common among vestibular patients.
VeDA Ambassador and vestibular patient, Glenn Schweitzer - author of the "Mind Over Meniere's" blog - wrote an article to help caregivers understand how they can support a loved one with an invisible illness. Read Glenn's blog post here.
If you've ever been on an airplane, you've heard the flight attendants remind you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. This message is an important metaphor for caregivers - take care of yourself so that you can be present to fully support your loved one. Are you getting enough rest? Do you go out and do fun things just for yourself, even if your loved one can't participate? Are you eating right, exercising, and taking care of your own physical and mental health?
- Living While Things Hang in the Balance - An Article for Caregivers, by Dr. Rachel Bilgrei, PhD
- Signs of Depression
- Support for Caregivers - VeDA offers two ways for caregivers to connect with others who have a loved one suffering from a vestibular disorder. If you or your loved one is a VeDA member you qualify to participate in our online forum and V-PALS Network. Contact us at [email protected] for more information.
- The ABC's of Caring - An article on the "ABC's of Caring" (Awareness, Balance, and Connection), featured in the Garrison Institute Newsletter.
- Exercise - Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others. Setting aside time for physical activity is one way to help you stay healthy. Check out this article by the National Institute on Aging.
As a first step in defining caregiver issues and needs, VeDA conducted a survey in which we asked patients and caregivers:
- How has your vestibular disorder impacted your family and friends?
- What impacts or limits of yours have made their lives more challenging?
- What do you notice is upsetting, irritating, or disappointing to them?
- What do they identify as the most difficult part of dealing with your condition?
VeDA has many educational resources on our website that can help you learn about the physical, mental and emotional challenges faced by vestibular patients. To be an effective advocate for your loved one's healthcare, it is helpful to understand how vestibular disorders are diagnosed and treated, and how they impact everything from balance to hearing, vision, and stamina. Check out VeDA's Resource Library to learn more.
Top 5 Links For Caregivers:
- About Vestibular Disorders
- Provider Directory
- Descriptions of the different types of vestibular disorders
- Publications on the cognitive & emotional impacts of vestibular disorders
- Questions for your doctor
Sometimes everyday tasks and events become burdensome to vestibular patients, and by extension to their loved ones. Going to the grocery store is more than just a chore, it's a CHORE, and attending social events can really wipe you out. By communicating in advance about what a patient's needs are, and planning out how to approach these situations, you lessen the anxiety that can be caused by not knowing what's going to happen. Using this planning tool will allow you to react constructively if and when the patient is experiencing symptoms and needs your help.
Being a vestibular patient is hard. Your life has been turned upside down, and you may feel like no one understands. It is often helpful to remember that your family and friends' lives have changed, too, and they are learning to cope with these changes as best they can. Be patient with them. Give them space to do things that are important to them even if doesn't include you. And remember, if sometimes they express frustration, know that they still care for you and are doing their best, despite the challenges you both face. You can help them by sharing the resources on this page, and by discussing them together.
The Atlas of Caregiving is using new methods to uncover the unique challenges and rewards that caregiving presents, from economic, emotional, and mental stressors to the moments of compassion, joy, and intimacy. Learn more and sign up to participate in their pilot study.