In this article I describe the unique caring and caretaking relationship between a mentally ill person and the nonprofessional caretaker in his or her life. Stressing the perspective of the caretaker, I call this relationship "being there" for the mentally ill person. I collected the data through in-depth interviews and used a descriptive phenomenological approach to unveil the general structure of the experience. Eight constituents emerged as central to the general structure of this experience: (a) accepting the changed other and grieving the loss of who the other once was; (b) taking action in challenging circumstances; (c) recognizing the ongoing, never-ending, and sometimes unpredictable nature of the experience; (d) feeling isolated; (e) having ambiguity of the heart; (f) experiencing the tension of waiting; (g) knowing the other well; and (h) caring for the other. Knowledge gained from the study findings will help health care professionals understand and support people who are in this experience from a more caring paradigm.
- Mental health and illness
- Mental health nursing