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INFORMATION FOR CARE PARTNERS
Helping the person you care for manage schizophrenia
As a caregiver, you know how vital your role is in helping your loved one manage schizophrenia. You are someone he or she can trust, someone he or she relies on for support, and someone who helps make important treatment decisions.
Many of the ideas in this section may already be part of your family member or friend's plan of care. But, even if you're a seasoned caregiver, consider how some of these suggestions might help you manage the challenges that you and your loved one face.
Learning as much as you can is a good first step
As a caregiver, one of the most important things you can do is learn as much as you can about schizophrenia. Once you understand why your loved one is behaving a certain way, you will have a better grasp on how best to give your support.
As you look through this list, consider how some of these suggestions might help you better help the person in your life with schizophrenia.
Ideas to support your loved one
Help your friend or family member stay on track with medication
It is very important that the person you support take his or her medication as prescribed. One of the possible symptoms of schizophrenia is a "lack of insight"–people with the illness may not even be aware that they have it. So they may not think they need to take any medication.
Daily reminders, gentle encouragement, and possibly keeping a journal or calendar can really help your loved one stay on track.
Provide healthy foods
Having a well-balanced diet is always important. Encourage healthy eating and offer nutritious foods and snacks whenever possible.
Keep your loved one engaged in daily activities
One of your big challenges might be finding ways to support and protect the person with schizophrenia while allowing room for self-reliance. Try encouraging him or her to do some routine activities of daily living alone, like making a meal or doing household chores.
You can also encourage your loved one to pursue favorite interests, like reading, painting, or visiting friends. Staying active can help manage the stress that comes with schizophrenia.
COMMUNICATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT
It may be hard to talk to someone with schizophrenia at times. But doing something together doesn't always require talking. Going for a walk or playing a game may be a stress-free way to spend time together.
Your family member or friend with schizophrenia may sometimes want to share thoughts or feelings that don't make sense to you. Be patient. Try not to correct your loved one, but listen attentively and offer your perspective.
Be encouraging and set reasonable goals
Help the person you care for set goals he or she can achieve, like engaging in social activities every day with friends and family. It may be hard for your loved one to meet all the expectations that you both had before schizophrenia entered your lives. By focusing on smaller achievements and signs of progress, you can help:
- Ease the pressure your loved one might feel trying to reach bigger, unrealistic goals
- Relax and allow yourself to appreciate the things that he or she does achieve
Support your loved one by joining with others
Support groups can help you and the person you care for understand that neither of you is alone–many others are going through the same thing.
The is another way to help. Simply sign up here to get useful information, tools and savings on your loved one's prescription.
WORKING WITH YOUR LOVED ONE'S DOCTOR
Stay involved in medical decisions
Along with your loved one and his or her doctor, you are part of the decision-making team. If helping to make important medical decisions is part of your responsibility, your family member or friend may need to sign a release so the doctor can share medical information with you.
Let the doctor know about any side effects or changes in behavior
Since you may notice things that your loved one may not—like changes in mood or behavior—it can be helpful if you take an active role in managing his or her illness. Let the doctor know if you see any changes in mood or behavior or any issues with side effects.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOURSELF
Accept that your loved one has schizophrenia
Caring for someone with schizophrenia can lead to feelings of guilt, helplessness, fear, and resentment. One important step you can take is to accept that your friend or family member has this illness. This acceptance involves more than just recognizing that he or she has schizophrenia—it means figuring out how to let go of any blame. Realize that nothing you or your loved one did caused schizophrenia to happen.
It's a difficult process, but once you figure out how to let go of these feelings, you can begin to more fully support your loved one and get support yourself.
Share the responsibility, if possible
Shifting the responsibility from one caregiver to the entire family can help encourage a sense of team involvement and a “we're in this together” attitude.
Take care of yourself, too
If you don't take care of yourself first, it is more difficult to properly care for your loved one. Take a weekend for yourself, or even an afternoon if you can't leave for that long.
You can also turn to organizations that offer support to caregivers and families impacted by schizophrenia. The right support group can help families sort out their initial feelings of guilt, confusion, and anger and develop techniques to deal with the stresses inherent in having a close relative with schizophrenia.
Making time for self-care and support keeps individuals healthy and relationships strong, and can help prevent caregiver burnout in the long run.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Establish a plan for your loved one's ongoing care
Maybe you're the parent of someone with schizophrenia. Maybe you're a sibling or close friend. Whatever the particulars of your situation, it's important to think about key issues that your loved one will face in the event you can no longer act as caregiver:
- Living arrangements
- Financial planning
- Medical care
- Who will step in as the primary caregiver
Planning for these issues before they arise can ease some of your stress and help set a plan for your friend or family member's ongoing care.