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Schizophrenia

How Can The Family Help?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 12:46

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The families of people with schizophrenia are on the "front line." While the community has support groups, the family is the main one. Often the role is difficult. The person may deny there is a problem and resist efforts at treatment.

How-To Information:

Here is some advice for helping a person with schizophrenia

  • Remember that schizophrenia is a medical illness. Do not feel ashamed because someone in your family has it.
  • Do not feel guilty or seek someone to blame. Schizophrenia is nobody's fault. Acceptance is important.
  • Educate yourself about your relative's personal symptoms. Early clues, such as changes in sleep patterns or social withdrawal, can indicate that a relapse may be happening.
  • Establish a daily routine for the person to follow.
  • Help the person stay on the medication.
  • Let the person know that he or she is not facing the illness alone. Keep lines of communication open.
  • Try not to show overt anxiety or distress. Avoid harsh or direct criticism.
  • Compliment on achieved goals without being effusive in your praise.
  • Realize that caring for the person can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Take time for yourself.
  • If the person can no longer be cared for at home, speak with the doctor about alternatives for care.

If A Person Resists Treatment

Often, a person with schizophrenia will resist treatment, believing that delusions or hallucinations are real and that psychiatric help is not necessary. Family members may need to take an active role in having the person seen and evaluated by a professional.

The issue of civil rights enters into any attempt to provide treatment against a person's will. In the U.S., laws protecting individuals from involuntary commitment have become very strict and vary from state to state.

Generally, if people are dangerous to themselves or others due to a mental disorder, they can be hospitalized and treated even if it is against their will. Many hospitals offer crisis intervention services and hotlines in cases of emergency.

Nice To Know:

Q: My son constantly forgets his medication. How I can help?

A: Try organizing his medications with medication calendars or pillboxes that are marked with each day. Purchase an electronic timer that beeps when medications should be taken. Plan for him to take the medication at a certain time, such as with meals. Another option is to ask his doctor about long-acting injected forms of medication.

How To Information:

How to talk with the doctors

Family members of people with schizophrenia may find themselves interacting often with medical professionals. Here are some tips for communicating with the doctor.

  • Keep a diary of the person's behavior and describe it as completely as possible. These are called anecdotal records.
  • Write down your questions so you don't forget to ask anything important.
  • Don't be surprised if the person chooses not to speak or communicate with the doctor. Tell the doctor yourself about some of your observations.

Schizophrenia