The UK’s eating disorder charity Beat has launched new guidance encouraging healthcare providers to ensure better support for families of people with eating disorders, including by offering an assessment of their own mental health needs and offering access to peer-to-peer support programmes.
The NICE guidelines for eating disorders require service providers to ensure that carers are fully informed about their loved one’s illness and the treatment for it. If fully involved, families and carers can help their loved one to recover faster and to ensure that they don’t relapse.
However, research by Beat finds families reporting that they currently do not receive adequate support in looking after a loved one with an illness that can consume their own energy and family life as well as the health of the sufferer. Sofia, a mother, described a situation faced by many parents: “We get no respite, whatsoever… I’ve been on pretty much 24/7 duty, looking after her for the last four or five years, really. We have had no respite from that, whatsoever and there’s nothing [to help us].” Another mother, Victoria, admitted that “both of us were really falling apart.”
The charity has also uncovered a lack of information about eating disorders provided to carers to help them understand the illnesses. One sister, Chloe, said “We were told “[Your sister] is anorexic, that’s her diagnosis… we weren’t told anything about the actual eating disorder itself, nothing about the other mental-health issues that come along with it, like the depression, OCD, or that sort of thing.” Sofia said that when her daughter “first had her major meltdowns and pretty much psychotic episodes, which were scary, I had no idea that that was something that happened with an eating disorder because there was no information given.”
Beat’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford said “No family should have to go through the immense distress of an eating disorder alone, and their own health should not be put at risk."
“By issuing these standards, we are offering the NHS a practical framework to ensure that families and carers can play the best possible role in helping their loved one to get and stay well.”