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Caring for a Loved One Who Has Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects the entire family. It can be difficult to watch a loved one who was once happily planning for the future develop symptoms of confusion and paranoia.

Family members have an important role to play in the treatment of a person living with schizophrenia. They may also need to seek support or treatment of their own to help them cope with the demands of their loved one’s illness and the loss they may feel.

It is important that you help yourself so you can best work with your loved one to help in their recovery. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Read up about schizophrenia. Learn about schizophrenia and the first signs of relapse. Seek out sources of good information including books and websites. The website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) can help.

  • Meet your loved one’s treatment team. The support of the treatment team is important for both you and your loved one. The treatment team wants to work with you. Work cooperatively with your family member's healthcare team, teachers, and other members of your community when needed.

  • 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 is important to include children in the discussions of the needs of a family member with this disease. If children are not included, they may develop unrealistic fears and concerns.

  • Learn about other important topics. No one is prepared to help a loved one with a serious mental illness so there are many things that you can learn that can help. For example, learn about your legal rights and the legal rights of your loved one.

  • Develop a plan for recovery. It is important to include family members and your loved one in a discussion of how you all can be helpful during difficult times. It is important to hear from your loved one and listed to what they say will be helpful. Recognize your loved one’s autonomy as the primary agent in their own treatment and recovery.

  • Take care of yourself. This is a marathon, not a spring. You need to feel good in order to help your loved one. 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.

  • Seek counseling for yourself, if needed. If you are having problems dealing with your feelings about your family member's condition, talk with a healthcare provider about whether counseling may be helpful. Make sure the counselor you choose has experience working with families of people who have schizophrenia or similar conditions. Sometimes joining a support group can help. Talking with other people who have family members with schizophrenia can be comforting.

  • Give 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 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. 

  • Stay hopeful. Like most people with schizophrenia, your loved one may experience symptom improvement and better functioning in time. People diagnosed with schizophrenia can go on to lead a full and meaningful life. Meet other family members and learn their stories. The website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great place to get started.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 3/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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