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What do I need to know about caring for someone with schizophrenia?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
The National Institutes of Mental Health explains that family members are often the primary caregivers of a person with schizophrenia. If you are caring for a person with schizophrenia, perhaps the most important thing to know is that your loved one may not think he needs treatment. You can help by reminding your loved one to take his medication, taking him to his appointments, and, if needed, arranging his follow-up appointments.

Another aspect of caring for someone with this lifelong brain disorder is that it is important to set realistic goals. For instance, a goal that may be achievable is for your loved one to find a steady job or to be able to live independently. Finally, when caring for a person for schizophrenia, remember to be respectful and offer support and love, even if your loved one is saying things that are clearly false. However, if the person you are caring for starts doing or saying dangerous or violent things, do not tolerate these behaviors -- call for help. And remember that as the caregiver for a person with a chronic condition, you may also need a break or assistance occasionally. If at all possible, do not try to care for someone without any support for yourself.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

It is never easy caring for a sick loved one. It takes a lot of strength, love, and patience to do what you are doing. When caring for anyone, especially someone with schizophrenia, it’s important to understand the disease. It can help to sit in on appointments to see what the doctor or therapists talk about. They may be able to help you, too, by giving you tips or signs and symptoms to look out for. If this is not possible, seek out family therapy or group therapy opportunities. You and your loved one can go together, discuss the illness, and learn ways for both of you to cope. And don’t forget to share the love! Continuing to dish out love and acceptance makes a world of difference. And one more thing: Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Managing your stress and ensuring your well-being makes caring for loved ones much easier and more effective.

Caring for someone with schizophrenia requires a major time commitment and a great deal of dedication. People with schizophrenia can exhibit bizarre symptoms that are often severe when they are not taking their medications, and some people with the disorder do not take their medications because of unpleasant side effects. If you're caring for a person with schizophrenia, be sure the person is taking the prescribed medication. If the person you are caring for is not taking the prescribed medication, call a doctor to see if an injection is appropriate. Also, you must carefully watch the person with schizophrenia to see whether hospitalization may be necessary. Sometimes, people with this disorder become erratic and do unexplainable things. They may think suicidal thoughts or attempt to harm themselves, or they may try to hurt other people. Stay in communication with the person's doctor to determine what steps need to be taken. Additionally, caring for someone with schizophrenia requires support. Take advantage of the support groups and materials in your community.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.