Making agreements and plans

Through discussion with the person, you might come to some agreement. For example, you might agree that you will provide specific support when it is needed, and the person will endeavor to let you know if they notice warning signs, episodes or need help. Consider formalizing the way you help into a plan. Many caregivers find it useful to have simple personal plans about ways to deal with their loved one’s bipolar disorder.

When are plans useful?

It is not always possible to implement exactly what is specified in a plan, but it can provide direction and a basis from which to work. Bipolar crises can be challenging and having a crisis management plan may make things a little easier. You can help the person to be treated in ways they would prefer to be treated when they are severely ill by planning things in advance and discussing if there are ways you can act on their behalf (see planning for times when the person is severely ill). Other examples, of times when it may be useful to have a plan include when the person has warning signs or is depressed manic/ hypomanic or suicidal.

Sometimes people do not want to discuss their illness or to make plans. Even if the person does not want to discuss illness management, having your own plans can help you to be prepared.

Tips for creating plans:

  • Keep your plans simple so they are easy to follow.
  • Consider writing your plans down, keeping them on your computer or in an easily accessible place.
  • Try to be reasonably consistent in providing the specific help you offer. Don’t feel pressured to always be perfectly consistent as unpredictable demands and circumstances do occur. If you cannot provide the usual support, try to arrange with the person for a back-up support person or organization to step in.
  • Review your plans as circumstances change or you acquire new information.