To Parents and Caregivers
1.Establish a Support Network
When you find your children suffer from eating disorder, remain calm. Do not blame yourself. Discuss with, e.g. your spouse, in relation to how to handle this situation. It is impossible to cope with this illness alone all by yourself. Find out more information about eating disorder as early as possible. For instance, you can join the family’s support groups to learn more about eating disorder. Sometimes, the patients refuse to admit they suffer from eating disorder at the beginning. Instead of waiting passively, caregivers should keep an eye on information provided by communities and have a handful of those at hand. In this way, you can help facilitate their treatment when they are willing to accept their illness.
2.Notice the Symptoms Displayed by Patients
If you notice symptoms displayed by patients, like self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives, low calories intake etc, you should register with a family doctor for regular check-ups. Pay attention to the patient’s health all the time. Seek help from professionals. If necessary, admit the patient into a hospital for treatment.
3.Receive Treatment at the Earliest Stage Possible
You should encourage patients to face their illness positively and seek help from professionals as soon as possible. Do not force them if they are not willing to accept the reality at first. Caregivers are advised to take part in HEDA’s support groups in order to learn from others how to handle different conditions of patients.
4.Manage Your Emotions Well
Most caregivers worry a lot about eating disorder patients’ eating habits and their
physical conditions. They are desperately seeking to help them enjoy eating again. However, caregivers may be discouraged by the patients’ indifference or cool responses. They may feel defeated and become frustrated or irritable. Caregivers should recognize the significance of their roles in the patients’ recovery process. If they fail to control their emotions, they can’t provide strong support for the patients. Therefore, caregivers should take part in social activities and support groups to relieve their stress. They should also talk to their friends about their feelings. If necessary, they should seek help from professionals.
5.Avoid Arguments Over Food
Some caregivers and patients always fight over the amount of food eaten in a meal, causing the dinner table to become a battleground. In fact, the root of the problem is not whether to eat or not eat; it’s whether the patient’s needs have been satisfied. It’s very hard to facilitate a successful recovery if you only forcefully increase the amount of their food intake and fail to realize their reasons for not eating or binge eating. Incessant arguments do not help patients resume their normal eating pattern; it will even worsen the relationship between the caregivers and patients, making it harder for the caregivers to win the trust from the patients in future.
6.Listen Closely to the Patients’ Needs
Eating is a very stressful activity for eating disorder patients. Caregivers should accept the fact that patients cannot recover in a short period of time. Therefore, they should not blame, challenge or adopt a skeptical attitude towards them regarding eating problems. Besides, they should not have the view that the patients are only suffering from what they deserve because they are already tortured by their own thoughts and emotions. Most caregivers pay their attention mostly to the patients’ eating behaviour and changes in weight and neglect their psychological needs. To help them, you should listen to their problems and show that you fully understand them. You can even ask them directly what you can do which would be most helpful to him/her.
7.Maintain a Balance in the Family
Caregivers should be careful not to let the patients use their illnesses as a means to take control over the family. They should not let the patients receive all the attention of the family and should try to maintain a normal way of living within the family. The family should live the way they lived before a certain family member is diagnosed with eating disorder. They should not give in to their demands just because of the illnesses. Besides, your own needs and other children’s needs also need to be taken care of. In this way, the patients will not tend to think they would obtain the family’s care only when they are sick.
8.Set a Good Example Yourself
As an example to your children, you should establish normal and healthy eating habits. In addition, you should accept your appearance and weight. Do not criticize other people’s appearance since this will deliberate wrong concepts to your children.
9.Respect the Patients
Do not force the patients to receive treatments when they’re not fully ready, because this may discourage them from seeking medical help later and negatively affect the results of treatment. When the patients receive psychotherapy, remember to respect their choices of therapy and do not interfere or force them into anything, in order not to give them pressure and weaken their confidence towards recovery. Do not request the counsellor to divulge any information provided by the patients before you receive consent from them. Remember, patients have privacy too.
10.Avoid Frequent Change of Therapists
Psychotherapy has to be maintained for a period of time to see its desired effects. However, due to the impatience of some patients or caregivers, they frequently change their counsellors or seek help from many different professionals. Since every professional may have their own approaches, too many changes will only make it hard for the patients to adapt to.
11.Accept, Support and Encourage the Patients
The best treatment for eating disorder patients is a trusting relationship between the family and patients. It’s important to make them feel cared for, supported and accepted by the family. Do not force your thoughts onto your children. Instead, you should encourage independent thinking.