This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The theme, shared by our charity partner, Beat, is “empowering carers” and to us highlights the complexity of eating disorders and what it means to recover as a family.
Why is parent or carer involvement significant when it comes to someone’s eating disorder recovery? Because the illness exists outside of treatment and therapy and can seep into all areas of a person’s life: into social experiences, family life, relationships, work or schooling. As a parent, you likely play some sort of role within these areas of your child’s life.
The topic of “transitions” in eating disorders has become somewhat of a theme lately when looking at the carer’s experience. Examining this, transitions in eating disorders may happen when moving between treatment teams, from one geographical location to another and/or to one school or university to another. Transitions also arise in puberty and in social relationships. Managing transitions – having a tolerance for what life throws at us – is vital and when the individual sufferer can’t handle them themselves, often a parent or treatment team has to step in to support in that process.
As a Specialist Day Treatment service, we have to plan our programme around the fact that our clients transition in and out of our day treatment on a daily basis: people arrive for breakfast, continue their journey in therapy, and whilst they may also stay for dinner, they return home in the evenings to continue on their recovery. As such, the family at home will likely share in our responsibility to care for and treat your loved one as they progress in their journey.
As we’ve said before, eating disorders do not just affect the individual sufferer. All members of the family are affected as they try to make sense of a suffering that’s expressed and indicated through someone’s relationship to food and their body image. Confronting this experience on a daily basis can take a huge toll on the carer’s wellbeing and the relationship with their loved one. It’s okay if things get overwhelming and if at times you feel helpless. You, too, are human and despite our best efforts we all need our own form of support from time-to-time.
How Orri supports carers
Evidence suggests that caring for other people can have significant impact on mental and physical wellbeing. For this reason, Orri has created a care assessment Carer Health Style Profile. This enables the caregiver to assess their own needs, and the Orri team will support and signpost help for them during this process.
Connecting With Others
Along with research, we recognise that the complexity of caring for someone may lead people to feel isolated in their experience. We offer opportunities for the caregiver to share experiences and gain advice and support from other people who are, or have been in a similar position.
Carer & Sibling Groups
Carers groups are run on a monthly basis. These sessions are facilitated by different members of our clinical team,and the areas discussed are directed from the carers to ensure they are relevant, and in the moment.
“In Action” Support
A carer may wish to work closely with our Occupational Therapist to support their child/husband/wife either at the kitchen table, in food preparation and portion sizing, or when visiting shops to buy food. By working with our team, the carer can gain confidence and practice before working directly with the person they care for.
“Come Dine With Me” Meal Session
Alternatively, carers may wish to work alongside the individual and the Occupational Therapists to collaboratively gain confidence and gain a deeper understanding of the practicalities and emotions of ‘in action’ mealtimes. The aim of these sessions is to develop confidence in the relationship with food and each other, together with the planning the time after meals.
Access to individual professional’s expertise
Orri’s full team of experts will be on hand to discuss whichever area within the multi professional team the person requires.