Knowing your role as carer makes life so much easier

Ideally, the carer’s role should be focused on social and emotional support. Often the carer becomes the key point of contact for a team of professional health care professionals (GP, nutritionist, psychologist, etc.) assisting the person you are caring for. It’s common for the carer to take on the additional roles of ‘case manager’ and ‘meal support’.

Case Support

Ideally a case manager will be assigned to your loved one, especially as initial treatment commences.  The role of case manager is to ensure that appointments are made, and follow-up occurs.  That communication happens across different professionals involved in the treatment.  (ie key physical data from GP is passed onto dietitian and therapist).  Suitable treatment evolves as time passes and the most appropriate professionals are referred to.

When no case manager is assigned it can fall to the carer/support person to keep the network of professionals afloat and informed.  If the professionals your loved is seeing are experienced with eating disorders they may have some informal case management in place.  Check and see how your loved and professionals would like your assistance.

Meal Times

The lead up to , during and after Meal times can be challenging – physically and psychologically – for those with an eating disorder and can be frustrating and difficult for the carer/support person.  If your loved one is under weight, they generally need to eat more than the average person to get their body back to being healthy.

Ask them how they want help
Discuss with the person you care about what would help.

Seek an expert
Find an experienced eating disorder therapist or dietitian – the three of you can create a clear plan of what is to be eaten, in what timeframe and what support the person wants during this time.

Be present
Try to have someone with them during all meals times.

Shopping & preparation
Ask what assistance they would like  with food shopping or preparation.

Post meal
Often a very difficult time for the person with an eating disorder. Help to distract them by doing an activity that is not too physical (playing board games, watching TV).

Eating Disorder Meal Support: Helpful Approaches for Families

Kelty Mental Health July 2012  35.27 min

Provides strategies to help structure and support around mealtimes.  Aimed at parents of youths but well worth watching and using what you learn as a start point to have a discussion with your loved one about how best help support them at meal times.

Role of ‘Social Support Carers’

The role of additional ‘social support carers’ may be a different than those case managing and giving meal support. Often members of extended family (e.g. grandparent) and friends can take on the role of social support.  This means doing things with the person you care for. Choose things to do that they used to enjoy – away from meals and the stress that goes with eating. Being preoccupied with enjoyable activities, that help them to feel good about themselves, can be highly valuable for the path to recovery and can reduce isolation.  Eating disorders tend to be very socially isolating and undermining of self-confidence. Just spending time with people who love and accept them can be helpful.
Note: Section 5: What to Say & Not to Say may assist – particularly on ‘avoiding triggers’.

How Siblings Can Help

Visit the Eating Disorders Victoria website (otherwise known as Eating Disorders Foundation) for this information and 10 tips on supporting your sibling toward recovery (and looking after yourself): http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/getting-help/for-family-friends-and-carers/how-to-cope

Support

  • Find a good therapist
    When searching for a treatment professional, it is important to keep in mind that both you and the person you are caring for feel comfortable with the therapist or eating disorder specialist you choose to work with. If there appears to be no progress after a couple of months it should be raised with the therapist, maybe a different approach is required or a different therapist.
  • Carer Support Group or Phone Support
    You may also wish to join a carer support group or access telephone peer support. Find contact numbers by contacting EDA: 07 3077 7320 (Queensland only); admin@eda.org.au
  • Gather the team
    Directly engage and inform the positive and important people in your life and the life of the person you are caring for. Having a team of positive people around, people who are on the same page as you when it comes to conversations, actions and general strategy, the better.

Conversations

  • Talk about your role
    It is helpful to have a conversation around what sort of support you are willing to offer and what the person with the eating disorder is looking for. Choose carefully when and where to have this conversation. Preferably somewhere private and quiet – and not around meal times. If anyone gets stressed or upset take a break and agree to return at a certain time.
  • Pick your battles
    Don’t feel you need to respond to every eating disorder occurrence. Choose what’s worth discussing and what’s worth letting go of. Recovery can be a long process and it’s important to maintain relationships and perspective.
  • When you goof
    Navigating conversations with a person struggling with an eating disorder can be difficult and frustrating. Don’t stress if you make a mistake. It’s easy to get too emotional and say things you regret. A really good skill to practice is acknowledging your slip to that person, asking their understanding and forgiveness and to start again. This is really important as everyone does make mistakes and the process of treatment and recovery will be filled with setbacks and mistakes. Normalising this and showing everyone makes mistakes and can move on is critical. Admitting making a mistake can be hard – remember you can talk it through with a support worker (see below).
Read more: 5. What to Say and Not to Say

Caring for a loved one with an eating disorder V3

A carers guide to understanding the illness and keeping well

January 2015, Austin Health and St Vincents Hospital, Victora

More Info Here

‘Skill-Based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder (The New Maudsley Method)’ Janet Treasure, Grainne Smith and Anna Crane
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd. [UK] 2007
The Maudsley Approach has captured typical feelings and actions of carers – and what an ideal mindset and strategy for you as a carer. It is worth understanding these concepts no matter what age you both are. The ideal is mastering the balance between caring and control. In other words: flexible compassion and consistent boundaries.

  • Chapter 4, pages 25-29 – What kind of carer are you
  • Chapter 9, pages 93–111 – Interpersonal Relationships
  • Chapter 11, pages 159-164, Supported Eating

Extract from ‘Supporting a partner with an eating disorder’. B-eat, UK
Attach pdf mealtimes extract

Read Article Here

Family Involvement in Treatment
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC: 10 February  2014
Eating Disorder Hope [US]
Covers the following topics: function of families in the recovery process; parents and eating disorders; relationships and eating disorders; siblings and eating disorders; spouses and eating disorders; articles on family involvement in eating disorders recovery.

Read Article Here

Mark’s Story
B-eat – Beat Eating Disorders [UK]
Mark wrote directly about his experience with Lucy – his girlfriend (now wife) – who had an eating disorder

Read Article Here

Helping and Healing Practices
Adapted from an article by Steve Watson, Body-Pride May/June 1993NEDIC [US]
‘Practical advice for partners of a person with disordered eating…by someone who’s been there’.
Steve lives with his partner who is recovering from bulimia.

Read Article Here

5 Ways To Help A Partner With An Eating Disorder, Because They Need Support, Not Judgment

Gina M. Florio, 6 Aug 2015 – Bustle.com [US]

Read Article Here

Hope After Loss: An Interview With Michael Falk
Cmysko, 12 Dec 2013 – proud2bme [US]

Michael who met his girlfriend at university and supported her as best he could before he lost her.

Read Article Here

12 Ways to Support Your Partner with Binge Eating Disorder
Michelle Ervin, 1 March 2016 – BEDA [US]

‘J.D.’ husband of someone with binge eating disorder, giving his story and a 12 tips.

Read Article Here

Anorexia – Parents to Parents: What We Wish We Had Understood
Length: 40.400mins [US]
This clip talks to parents of teenagers with anorexia. However the majority of the information applies across eating disorders and is suitable to understand for adults with anorexia. This video discusses when they first noticed the problem and treatment process.
NOTE: this can be hard to view for some carers – leave it until a time when you are not feeling too stressed.

Modelling Effective Parenting For Eating Disorders

C&M ED Productions for Prof Janet Treasure [UK)
YouTube: Length: 5.42min

This video is of a father trying to get daughter to eat lunch. It demonstrates how difficult the process of supporting someone to eat can be and how important it is to stay clear about the goal and not caught up in emotion.

Rolling with Resistance
C&M ED Productions for Prof Janet Treasure [UK)
YouTube: Length: 2.51min

Resource Kit

A collection of resources to support recovery from disordered eating.  Compiled by Sarah-Louise McKenzie  

Talk it through with…

Eating Disorders Association’s counsellor:
07 3077 7320  Monday – Thursday 9-4pm (Queensland only)
Butterfly Foundation Support Services Monday to Friday 8am – 9pm AEST

  1. ED HOPE 1800 33 4673
  2. Web counselling thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/web-counselling
Or encourage your loved one to call The Eating Issues Centre on 07 3844 6055 for information and support Tuesday – Friday 9-4pm (Queensland only).
If you would prefer to email we will respond to you during office hours mailto:admin@eda.org.au