Sunday, February 25, 2007

Who is the “typical” Caramore client?

The typical client is someone who has had a grievous progression from a normal life into the despair and turmoil of psychosis. Not only has their behavior and identity and reason become alien to them, but their family often suffers equally from fright, confusion, and pain.

The vast majority of mental illnesses are treatable and manageable. Caramore maintains that with medical treatment, our rehabilitative setting, and ongoing illness management, individuals can reach a high level of progress.

Frustratingly, it is the client—with impaired insight—who frequently struggles for years before coming to the realization that the illness is much more than they are and that it demands treatment and a life built around being conscious of that demand.

Caramore clients who buy into the program and are cooperative and are willing to work hard currently enjoy a near perfect success rate.

Most of our clients work part time. Part time is appropriate; the illness is not gone—it’s simply being treated and managed. Part time is less stress, less exhaustive. Part time allows the time for medical appointments and therapy. Part time allows for the continuance of Social Security. Part time is perfect for gradual recovery.

Our typical client works part time, receives Social Security, lives in our long-term program called Tier 3, enjoys our vibrant social setting, is trying to get better, and is always preparing and planning for the future.

D. Cooley

Caramore’s rehabilitation is centered on working

The only thing larger than our families in our lives is work. For the vast majority of us, freedom and self-determination are contingent on our ability to contribute—through creativity, skills, education, and determination—our labor to society. Most individuals who suffer from a severe psychiatric disease can still work, although usually at greatly reduced hours.

Caramore is centered on work because we’ve seen—for thirty years—that individuals with mental illness respond well to work. Work typically awards them with a feeling of meaning and self-mastery, which is a powerful coping mechanism. They feel “normal” again—a regular member of society who works for a living (and creates economic value).

Caramore’s work-based rehabilitation not only functions as a methodical framework to begin recovery of one’s life from illness; but in addition, we facilitate valuable soft skills such as punctuality, dress, work-place etiquette, conscientiousness, and more. Caramore works hard to make sure these skills “stick.”

Caramore produces individuals who have significantly mastered managing their illness, and highly competent, assured, and mindful employees.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

What can I do about mental illness?

The most important first step the average person can do about mental illness is this:

Take the time to understand mental illness as a no-fault brain disease that greatly disrupts normal brain functioning. By virtue of all of us being human, we must admit that we have weaknesses and are susceptible to illnesses. These severe and predominantly hereditary psychiatric disorders and diseases are illnesses; they can actually change people’s behavior and personality and alter their identity. They can run from neurosis all the way to psychosis—a loss of touch with reality. Irrationality is frightening in all its forms, and an illness that can change the way a person thinks and acts takes an effort to understand and accept. Everyday we learn more about the functioning of the brain. It’s society’s duty to now get past the fear, misconceptions, and possible prejudices that have historically occurred revolving around brain ailments.

The nature of the illness and the suffering it brings demand that we see a psychiatric disorder it for what it is—yet another illness that afflicts us. We need to recognize the heroism in fighting it—as we do for those who battle cancer. It’s ridiculous to associate the vulnerability of being susceptible to illness as a form of personal weakness or deserved blame; rather, it’s the existence of that vulnerability in all of us that should be our call to action; it requires us to act—to help our neighbors, friends and family.

Alleviation of suffering never comes from denial or avoidance, but through empathy and action. Inside our own family we pride ourselves for loving and accepting our own as the flawed and the wonderfully "human" beings they are. And so it should be for those who have a mental illness.

Through honoring the full humanity and dignity of each of the people we serve, Caramore is out to consciously challenge old and misguided notions of mental illness. You can help us do the same by being aware of the real nature of the illness and knowing that it’s very much treatable (90 percent, like any other illness).

D. Cooley

Friday, February 23, 2007

What can be done about mental illness?

  1. Medical Care. All forms of serious psychiatric disorders and diseases require ongoing medical treatment.

  2. Supportive Environment. In severe cases—like schizophrenia—where cognition and behavior and insight have been impaired; rehabilitation is required. It can take a long time to relearn, readjust, and regain normal functioning. A structured environment that’s normalized, full of routines, expectations, and social interaction, is vital.

  3. Ongoing Illness Management. There is no immediate cure for hereditary psychiatric disorders. The illness can, and often does, return in degrees. But the chances of re-hospitalization can be reduced. Ongoing illness management entails living a healthy lifestyle, continued medical treatment, and remaining associated with support—support that helps limit isolation, ensure that the prescribed and correct (and often complex) medication regimen is being followed, and providing assistance in preventing small everyday life-problems from becoming large and un-repairable (like losing an apartment or a job).

Caramore currently provides those three services:

1. We serve as a liaison between our clients and psychiatrists, therapists and pharmacists. We monitor all medication to ensure all prescribed medical treatment and therapy are being followed.

2. We provide a rehabilitative setting that is supportive and encourages and requires direct effort and participation—the goal being to re-establish a meaningful life in our community.

3. We offer long-term association with us that entails housing, medication management, psychiatric care coordination, along with employment, financial, and health care counsel. We work hard to ensure progress is continually gained and not lost during unfortunate twists and turns of the illness.

D. Cooley

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Parent’sTestimonial

Dear Mr. Chapman,

My husband and I want to personally thank you and the staff first for accepting our son into the program and secondly for the excellent support given Joel.

In the beginning of Joel's stay in the group home, he was most unhappy. He bombarded us with complaints. We told him to stick it out, for he would see that his complaints would be unfounded. Ms. Mary and the other two ladies treated Joel as any parents - giving him praise when earned and advice. We appreciate everything they did for Joel, for they created a sense of pride in him.

We really appreciate Mr. McCreary, Mr. Shanley, and Mr. Cooley for their persistent dedication, commitment, and faith in our son. These gentlemen take an active interest in Jay (Joel). They don't interact with Jay as if he is just another client, but a human being. Joel himself refers to them as people who take a genuine interest in him. In Jay's words, "They have made me want to live again. Since coming to Caramore, my life has taken an upward spiral." I would be homeless if it were not for Caramore and the help I received from Ted, Barry, and David. Mom, they gave and give me hope. They make me know that I'm not the only one experiencing these problems. I work. I have money in my pocket. Things are looking up." Jay's now positive attitude gives us hope and belief in the system."

Just recently, Jay had to be re-hospitalized for a brief time. David, Barry, and Ted called us to reassure us that everything would remain intact and to check on Jay's progress.

We just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you and the staff for everything you have done for our son. We don't have the words to adequately describe how we feel when we see the positive transformation in Jay. He is now an ambassador for Caramore, and so are we!

Thank you,
Joel Rogers
Carolyn Rogers, mom
Larry Rogers, dad

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What in the world is a hereditary psychiatric brain disorder?

· A hereditary psychiatric brain disorder—or mental illness—includes disorders such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

· These disorders are real medical illnesses—diseases—more common than heart disease or cancer.

· Most of them are passed on through families—hereditary—and can not be prevented.

· They are not the fault of the individual who was born with it.

· They affect everyone with no regard for income, intelligence, or race.

· They can involve cognitive, emotional, behavioral and interpersonal impairments. They can severely limit insight. Those immediately suffering from untreated disorders can seem scary and strange.

· 90 percent of these disorders can be treated and managed and individuals can re-establish their lives.

· Caramore’s program is specifically tailored to treat and manage mental illness. Our rehabilitation methods work to restore impairments—to improve behavior, insight, and functioning.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Brushes with Life

Check out the show at the NC Museum of Art

The Brushes with Life art show and reception at the STEP clinic was very cool. I saw so many ex clients and their families that I felt literally overwhelmed with their stories and greetings—I felt like I was at an Alumnae Reunion with not enough time to talk with everyone. As I was listening to one person, I’d get jostled for contact from several others.

One aspect that has always interested me about these events is how intriguing it is to see people in a different environment. Many former Caramore clients said hi and I was pleased to see them outside the confines of Caramore. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I would meet a teacher outside of school. What a strange feeling that was—it was like that teacher had another life that I never would associate him or her with. I always referenced them as solely a teacher, not as a person with a life outside the class room.

The other lives of our clients, past and present, are really what makes what we do at Caramore so fascinating. For many of us, we sometimes see them in certain limited situations. But they all have "other lives" that we don't always see or appreciate. We have an impact on those lives far more than we might realize.

The high point of my evening was running into Jeff N. and his mom. Jeff was a real handful when he was with us—surly, disinterested, and slovenly. He had a couple of art pieces in the show and one work is featured prominently on the cover of the program brochure. He recently had a solo exhibit at Driade Cafe. He looks terrific. His mom introduced herself to me and went on about how well Jeff is doing. She says that she owes most of Jeff's improvements to his time at Caramore. Mind you, this was totally unsolicited by me and I didn't know what to expect from her. Jeff also referenced something I had given him eight years ago that he still has and appreciates. It illustrates to me the importance that we maintain in many of our clients' lives and the awesome power and influence that we demonstrate—sort of like being a parent.

Anyway, it was great to see people that we have worked at the reception. It's real nice to witness the "other lives" of the people we have worked with and it gives me renewed enthusiasm for what we do.

Barry Shanley