Family caregivers are often overwhelmed and justifiably worried about finding treatment during this pandemic. The wait lists at some residential treatment centers (RTC’s) in the USA are up to 40 people deep.  On a call with clinicians and outreach folks from around the country this past Friday,  we  heard that wait lists are currently anywhere from 1 week  to 10 weeks  for adolescents. Not quite as brutally long for adults.

You may have seen the article in the Guardian that I shared on my social media platforms about the tsunami of eating disorders in the UK. Dr Agnes Ayton, the chair of the Eating Disorder Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said “the number of people experiencing problems had risen sharply with conditions such as anorexia thriving in the isolation of lockdown.”

She also said: “We expect the tsunami [of patients] is still coming. We don’t think it has been and gone.” Here are some of the eye popping numbers she shared:

  • Urgent referrals at Oxford have gone up from 20% to 80%
  • Waits for routine treatment have increased 128% compared to last year
  • 41% increase in # of kids and young people completing treatment
  • 86% increase in the number of children and young people completing urgent treatment.

The waits, combined with an eagerness to have a loved one recover sooner than later can create even more fear and a sense of urgency that can eliminate a family caregiver’s ability to remain calm, compassionate and confident in their caregiving. Parents will often tell me that they’ve had a few or more good days and they think that perhaps they might not need a higher level of care (HLOC).

In our Facebook live (FB Live) on February 18th Wendy Wright, my partner at Recovery Roadmaps addressed this issue of when caregivers are distressed and anxious and how it is helpful to have a sense of neutrality when we’re accompanying our loved one through their process. You can see here at 33:30 in our FB LIve from Feb 18 – https://fb.watch/3Vc_Vi7MT1/  how Wendy discusses  the benefits of being neutral when we want to make the leap to believing they’re out of the woods because they’ve had a few good days.

Though we might see weight that is restoring, behaviors improving, eating improving, it’s important to  watch for intensity and frequency of behaviors in addition to any weight changes.  And when we can remain neutral about the progress, we can remain more emotionally regulated. And it works the other way too, when we’re able to stay emotionally regulated, we’re more able to be neutral and make good decisions based on facts and clinical recommendations rather than fear or desire for what it is we wish to be real.

This is as hard if not harder than it sounds. It can help to use curiosity and non reactive responses as well as validation to keep ourselves in a neutral stance.

I’m now trained in the communication tool for family caregivers of those with eating disorders developed by Dr. Adele LaFrance called Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) that provides structure on how to validate a loved one.  The families who are using EFFT are finding that both they and their loved one in recovery are seeing reduced reactivity and increased emotional regulation for all involved.

To learn more about getting support to practice this validation tool, reach out via my website for a free consult or just give me a call.

Take care and be safe.

IF you missed the FB Live on February 18th, you can catch it here. https://fb.watch/3Vc_Vi7MT1/