People with Mental Health Problems - a Checklist for Carers

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This leaflet is provided by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the professional body responsible for education, training, setting and raising standards in psychiatry. They also provide readable, user-friendly and evidence-based information on various mental health problems.

Carers need information and psychiatrists are busy. Carers may not always find out what they need to know about the person they are caring for. This checklist is designed to help you get all the information you need about the diagnosis and treatment of the person you care for.

You may be able to get some of this information from other members of the clinical team involved, or from written information that they can provide.

If the person gives you permission, the psychiatrist will be able to give you information about their condition and care.

Although you may not want to ask all the questions listed, you may find that they help you in preparing to meet the psychiatrist and the mental health team. Not everyone will need all the answers to all these questions at the same time. You may have questions that are not covered in this leaflet. Even so, it should provide a helpful framework for deciding what you do need to know.

  • What is the diagnosis or problem?
  • If a diagnosis has not yet been made, what are the possibilities?
  • Why has this happened to them?
  • Will they recover?
  • What symptoms suggest this diagnosis/illness?
  • What is known about the causes of this disorder/illness?
  • What is likely to happen in the future? Will it get better or worse?
  • Where can I get written information about this disorder?
  • What assessments have already been done?
  • Are there any other assessments that might be needed?
  • Are there any physical problems that have been discovered? If so, what will need to be done?
  • Have culture and background been considered?
  • What is the CPA?
  • What does the CPA mean?
  • Is the person on the CPA? If not, why not?
  • Will I be involved in the CPA?
  • What are the aims of the care and treatment?
  • What is a care co-ordinator?
  • What part will the care co-ordinator play in the person’s care?
  • Who else will be involved in the treatment?
  • What is your plan for treatment?
  • For how long will they need treatment?
  • Would talking treatments (eg, cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy) be helpful? If so, are they available locally?
  • What happens if they refuse treatment?
  • Have you asked them about how much information they are happy to share with me?
  • Will I be informed about important meetings concerning their care and treatment?
  • Can I see you on my own?
  • Would you like to ask me for any other information about them or the family?
  • Can I tell you things that will not be shared with the person or other members of staff?
  • Are their views on confidentiality clearly marked in their notes?
  • What can I do to help?
  • Are there any local self-help or carers’ groups that can help me understand the illness?
  • How can I get advice and training in the day-to-day management of the illness?
  • Are there any local groups that can provide support?
  • How can I get in touch with you?
  • How do I arrange to see you?
  • Who do I contact if I’m worried about their behaviour?
  • What do I do if I’m worried that they are becoming ill again?
  • Who do I contact in an emergency?
  • What help might be available?
  • How can I get a second opinion?
  • What is the difference between a carer, a nearest relative and a nominated person?
  • I understand that, as a carer, I am entitled to an assessment and care plan of my own. Who should I speak to?
  • If I have specific needs of my own, who should I ask?
  • If I need help, to whom should I turn?
  • What medication is to be used, and how?
  • Is the lowest effective dose being prescribed?
  • Can a low dose be taken at first and increased if necessary?
  • How often will the medication be reviewed?
  • Will I be involved in future discussions about the dose or type of medication?
  • What should the benefits of this medication be?
    • In the short term
    • In the long term
  • What are the possible side-effects of this medication?
    • In the short term
    • In the long term

Managing the medication

  • Why have you chosen this particular medication?
  • How long will the medication have to be taken for?
  • Are there any other medications that could be used if this one does not work?
  • What symptoms might mean that the dose should be changed?

What should I do if they experience unpleasant side-effects?

  • What will happen if they stop taking the medication?
  • Do you have any written information about this medication to give me?
  • Do they need to be admitted to hospital? If so, for how long?
  • If they have to go into hospital, which one will it be?
  • Will they be on a locked ward?
  • If they get short-term leave from hospital, when and how will I be informed?
  • How often will I be able to see them?

Discharge from hospital

  • What arrangements will be made for their care and monitoring after discharge from hospital?
  • If I am not able to look after the person when they are discharged, what will happen?
  • Am I expected to help with anything, especially medication?
  • Do you know of any self-help techniques that will help their recovery?

If not admitted to hospital

  • Do they need to be admitted to hospital?
  • Are there any alternatives to hospital admission?

Content used with permission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists website: A checklist for carers of people with mental health problems (September 2013, due for review September 2015). Copyright for this leaflet is with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Further help & information

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