Schizophrenia and the Caregiver
As a family member or close friend, you may help take care of your loved one who has schizophrenia. You can help your loved one stay in treatment, take his or her medicines, and prevent symptoms from coming back (relapse).
Along the way, be sure to take care of yourself too. It can be hard to watch a family member—who in the past was happily planning for the future—develop symptoms of confusion and paranoia. Family members may need to seek support or treatment to help them cope with the demands of the illness and the loss they may feel.
Tips for family members and friends
- Accept that schizophrenia is a long-term problem. People who do this usually adjust better to helping their loved ones. Keep in touch with your loved one's doctor, therapist, or counselor about how things are going.
- Keep your emotions in check. Too much emotion can make recovery harder, because it can be very stressful to your loved one. Try not to be critical, over-involved, or mean. Don't blame your loved one for his or her behavior.
- Be calm and soothing when your loved one has severe symptoms. Call the person quietly by name, or ask the person to tell you what he or she is experiencing. Don't argue or tell him or her that the voices aren't real. Call for help if you think the situation could become dangerous.
- Work cooperatively with your family member's health care team and teachers and with other members of your community when needed.
- Make a plan with all family members about how to take care of your loved one during times of relapse.
Caring for the family
You can help yourself and your family best when you:
- Take care of yourself. Continue to stay involved with your own interests, such as your career, hobbies, personal interests, and friends. Use techniques such as exercise, positive self-talk, relaxation, and deep breathing exercises to help manage your stress.
- Allow yourself time to grieve. Since schizophrenia often develops during the late teen and young adult years, it may mean the loss of dreams you had for your family member. If the symptoms are severe, you may feel that you have lost your loved one. You may need to deal with negative emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration. After you work through your feelings, you will be better able to care for yourself and your family.
- Manage your fears and concerns and those of other family members. Sometimes parents try to protect their children from knowing that someone in the family has a disease like schizophrenia. But it's important to include children in the discussions of the needs of a family member with this disease. If children aren't included, they may develop unrealistic fears and concerns.
- Seek counseling if needed. Consider family therapy. Family therapy might help prevent relapse and teach you and your loved one to work together.