As part of our Caregiver Week at Benzo Free, we have added a new page to our website titled “For the Caregiver.”
This new page combines 10 Tips for the Caregiver with other resources to help you in this journey. And this is only the beginning, as we uncover more resources and develop more tools to help you out, we will add them to this page and even expand it into an entire section if needed.
Some of these tips were discussed in our podcast episode this week, “Conversation with a Caregiver,” but some are new. Also, we have listed a few additional resources which may be of help, and this list will grow as we find more.
Below, I have included a brief summary of these 10 tips. Visit the web page for the entire article.
10 Tips for the Caregiver
1) Believe the Symptoms Are Real
Most physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms of benzo withdrawal are invisible to others. For those on the outside, it’s easy to doubt whether the symptoms are real, imagined, or invented to solicit sympathy or get out of doing an unpleasant activity. This can be terribly frustrating to those suffering from it.
2) Create a Calm Environment
Since benzos are an anti-anxiety medication, it makes sense that people may experience heightened — even extreme — anxiety as they withdraw from the drug. At the same time, they may be managing a myriad of painful and debilitating physical symptoms, which only adds to their anxiety. That’s even more reason they need to surround themselves with calming influences.
3) Limit your Isolation
Encourage your loved one to socialize with friends and family when they can. Don’t push them, especially if it’s a bad symptom day. Keeping some semblance of a social life is important, but only if it’s beneficial for you and your patient. If it’s better to stay home, invite friends to come over. If the patient needs to excuse him or herself for a few minutes to lay down, your friends will understand.
4) Prepare for Potential Personality Changes — Both Good and Bad
Knowing personality changes can happen can go a long way towards dealing with them. Try not to be judgmental during this time and understand the cause of this change. Often, they may return to the person they were prior to the drugs after withdrawal. And, even if they don’t, sometimes the changes are positive ones. Many people who have successfully withdrawn from benzos are more compassionate, better listeners, and less focused on trivial matters or material possessions.
5) Budget for Potential Financial Changes
If the patient can’t work, the loss of a regular income can have a big impact on finances. It might help to reduce unnecessary costs and save money during the smoother sailing times in case rough waters lie ahead. If there’s any financial upside to BWS, it might be that your loved one spends less than usual because he or she doesn’t feel up to going out as often. Then again, more frequent doctor visits might cancel that gain.
6) Let Your Friends and Family Members Know What’s Happening
Unfortunately, BWS is still relatively unknown to the general public. And since it’s virtually invisible to others and can last for so long, it’s easy to misunderstand the person going through it, doubt the condition is real, or even forget their symptoms exist. So, as long as long as the patient agrees, it’s good to let your trusted friends and family members know what’s happening and remind them of it periodically.
7) Remember, It’s the Condition, Not the Person
Remember the person behind the symptoms. This isn’t them — it’s their condition that’s causing them to be more emphatic, anxious, angry, irritable, complaining, forgetful, irritated, or withdrawn. When you think of it that way, it helps you to find the compassion you need to be around them.
8) Find Gratitude
Together with your loved one, you can be grateful that you both can feed yourselves, walk through the grocery store, smell and taste the warm bread, and see the fresh buds on the crabapple tree outside the window. Practice looking for the positive each day. Even if it’s just 10 seconds between symptoms, every little bit helps.
9) We Appreciate You – Even If We Don’t Say It
It’s important to remember that we appreciate you. We really do. Even if you don’t hear it enough. We know this is hard for you too, and you also didn’t sign up for this. We are grateful for all of your love, your time, your understanding, and we know we need you now more than ever.
10) And Most of All, Take Care of Yourself
As a caregiver, it’s easy to get sucked into the overwhelming vortex of symptoms, anxiety, and sense of helplessness that accompanies benzo withdrawal. It’s important to keep yourself in a healthy state of mind. After all, how effective can you be as a caregiver if you’re frazzled, depressed, and bitter?
Remember, benzo withdrawal can take a long time in some cases, but it is temporary. Life does get better when it starts to ease. It can be incredibly hard to have patience during this difficult time, and it’s important to find your own support system to ride out the storm.
This is just a brief summary. For the full description of each tip, please check out the “For the Caregiver” page on the website.
Take care of yourself and remember we truly appreciate all that you do.
Keep calm, taper slowly, and take care of yourself, Shana and D Foster