Families are usually the caregivers for people with
Schizophrenia. Family members can help their loved
one get treatment. They can also learn how to help
their loved one do his or her best in everyday life.
Caring for and supporting a family member with
Schizophrenia can be hard. People with the disorder
may not want treatment. They may stop taking their
medication. If this happens, you may need help from
the police or a hospital. Doctors at the emergency
room can check your loved one and decide whether he
or she needs professional help.
It's important to respect a person with
Schizophrenia. But you do not have to allow
dangerous behavior. Stay in touch with your loved
one's doctors. Talk to them about how to help your
family member through good and bad times.
Check to see if there are any support groups in your
area. Talking to others who care for people with
Schizophrenia may help your whole family.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES WHILE TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
The love and support of family plays an important
role in Schizophrenia treatment and recovery. If
someone close to you has Schizophrenia, you can make
a huge difference by helping that person find the
right treatment, cope with symptoms, and navigate
the long road to recovery. Dealing with a family
member's Schizophrenia can be tough, but you don't
have to do it alone. You can draw on others, and
take advantage of services in your communityĖbut you
will also need to take care of yourself.
How to help your loved one
If a family member or someone close to you has
Schizophrenia, you may be struggling with any number
of difficult emotions, including fear, guilt, anger,
frustration, and hopelessness. The illness may be
difficult for you to accept. You may feel helpless
in the face of your loved oneís symptoms. Or you may
be worried about the stigma of Schizophrenia or
confused and embarrassed by strange behaviors you
donít understand. You may even be tempted to hide
your loved oneís illness from others.
In order to deal successfully with Schizophrenia and
help your family member, itís important to:
accept the illness and its difficulties
be realistic in what you expect of the person with
Schizophrenia and of yourself
maintain a sense of humor
Do your best to help your family member feel better
and enjoy life, pay the same attention to your own
needs, and remain hopeful.
Tip 1: Take Care of Yourself
In order to successfully deal with Schizophrenia in
a family member, you need to take care of your own
needs and find healthy ways of coping with the
challenges you and your loved one face.
Put on your own "Oxygen Mask" first
Keeping a positive outlook is much easier when you
have others you can turn to for support. Like your
loved one with Schizophrenia, you too need help
encouragement, and understanding. When you feel
supported and cared for, you, in turn, will be
better able to support and care for your loved one.
Join a support group. One of the best ways to cope
with Schizophrenia is by joining a family support
group. Meeting others who know first-hand what
youíre going through can help reduce feelings of
isolation and fear. Support groups provide an
invaluable venue for the relatives of people with
Schizophrenia to share experiences, advice, and
||Make time for yourself. Schedule time into your
day for things you enjoy, whether it is spending
time in nature, visiting with friends, or reading a
good book. Taking breaks from caregiving will help
you stay positive and avoid burnout.
Look after your health. Neglecting your health
only adds to the stress in your life. Maintain your
physical well-being by getting enough sleep,
exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and
staying on top of any medical conditions.
Cultivate other relationships. Itís important to
maintain other supportive, fulfilling relationships.
Donít feel guilty for looking after your social
needs. You need support, too. These relationships
will help buoy you in difficult times.
The importance of managing stress
Schizophrenia places an incredible amount of stress
on family members. If youíre not careful, it can
take over your life and quickly burn you out. And if
youíre stressed out and overwhelmed, you will make
the person with Schizophrenia stressed. Thatís why
keeping your own stress levels under control is one
of the most important things you can do for a family
member with Schizophrenia.
Practice acceptance. The ďwhy me?Ē mindset is
destructive. Instead of dwelling on the unfairness
or life, accept your feelings (even the negative
ones). Your burdens donít have to define your life
unless you obsess about them.
Seek out joy. Making time for fun isnít frivolous
or indulgentóitís necessary. It isnít the people who
have the least problems who are the happiest; itís
the people who learn to find joy in life despite
Recognize your own limits. Be realistic about the
level of support and care you can provide. You canít
do it all, and you wonít be much help to a loved one
if youíre run down and emotionally exhausted.
Avoid blame. In order to cope with Schizophrenia
in a family member, itís important to understand
that although you can make a positive difference,
you arenít to blame for the illness or responsible
for your loved oneís recovery.
Tips for keeping stress in checkóno matter the
challenges in your life
Dealing with Schizophrenia in a family member can be
stressful, but you can keep your stress levels in
check by learning and practicing a variety of stress
Stress Management: How To Reduce, Prevent, and
Cope With Stress
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief:
Relaxation Exercises and Tips
Stress Relief in
Fast and Effective Ways to Rapidly Reduce Stress
Tip 2: Encourage and Support Treatment
The best way to assist the recovery of a family
member with Schizophrenia is to get them into
treatment and help them stick with it. Often, the
first challenge of treatment is convincing the ill
relative to see a doctor. To people experiencing
delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, there is no
need for medical intervention because the voices and
conspiracy theories are real.
If a family member with Schizophrenia is reluctant
to see a doctor, the following strategies might
Ė Your loved one may be more
willing to see a doctor if he or she can control the
situation somewhat. If your relative appears
suspicious of you, suggest another person to
accompany him or her to the appointment. You can
also give your family member a choice of doctors.
Focus on a particular symptom
Ė A person with
Schizophrenia may resist seeing a doctor out of fear
of being judged or labeled ďcrazy.Ē You can make the
doctor less threatening by suggesting a visit in
order to deal with a specific symptom such as
insomnia or a lack of energy.
Tips for supporting a family memberís Schizophrenia
Seek help right away.
Early intervention makes a
difference in the course of Schizophrenia, so donít
wait to get professional help. You family member
will need assistance finding a good doctor and other
Rather than doing
everything for your family member, encourage
self-care and self-confidence. Help your loved one
develop or relearn skills that will allow for
greater independence of functioning.
Itís important that your loved one have a voice in
his or her treatment. When your family member feels
respected and acknowledged, he or she will be more
motivated to follow through with treatment and work
Tip 3: Monitor Medication
||Once your family member is in treatment, careful
monitoring can ensure that he or she is staying on
track and getting the most out of medication. You
can help out in the following ways.
Take side effects seriously. Many people stop
taking their Schizophrenia medication because of
side effects, so pay attention to your loved oneís
drug complaints. Bring any distressing side effects
to the attention of the doctor. The doctor may be
able to reduce adverse effects by reducing the dose,
switching to another antipsychotic, or adding
another medication that targets the troublesome side
Encourage your loved one to take medication
regularly. Even with side effects under control,
some people with Schizophrenia refuse medication or
take it irregularly. This may be due to a lack of
insight into their illness and the importance of
medication, or they may simply have trouble
remembering their daily dose. Medication calendars,
weekly pillboxes, and timers can help people who are
forgetful. Two typical antipsychotics, Haldol and
Prolixin, are also available in a long-acting
injectable form, given as shots every 2 to 4 weeks,
eliminating the need for a daily pill.
Be careful to avoid drug interactions.
Antipsychotic medications can cause unpleasant and
dangerous side effects when combined with other
substances, including certain prescription drugs,
over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbs.
Help your family member avoid any problems by giving
the doctor a complete list of the drugs and
supplements he or she is taking. Mixing alcohol or
illegal drugs with Schizophrenia medication is also
harmful, so talk to the doctor if your relative has
a substance abuse problem.
family memberís progress.
You can help the doctor track treatment progress by
documenting changes in your family memberís
behavior, mood, and other symptoms in response to
medication. A journal or diary is a good way to
record medication history, side effects, and
everyday details that might otherwise be forgotten.
Tip 4: Watch for Signs of Relapse
||Stopping medication is the most frequent cause of
relapse in Schizophrenia, so itís extremely
important that your family member continues to take
all medication as directed. Many people whose
Schizophrenia is stabilized or in remission still
require medication to maintain their treatment gains
and keep symptoms at bay.
Unfortunately, even if a person is taking medication
as prescribed, relapse into an acute psychotic
episode of Schizophrenia can occur. But if you learn
to recognize the early warning signs of relapse and
take immediate steps to deal with them, you may be
able to prevent a full-blown crisis. The warning
signs of relapse are often similar to the symptoms
and behaviors that led up to the personís first
Common warning signs of Schizophrenia relapse
Deterioration of personal hygiene
Increasing paranoia Hostility
Confusing or nonsensical speech
If you notice any warning signs of relapse or other
indications that your family memberís symptoms of
Schizophrenia are getting worse, call the doctor
Tip 5: Prepare for Crisis Situations
Despite your best efforts to prevent relapse, there
may be times when your family memberís condition
deteriorates rapidly and drastically. During a
Schizophrenia crisis, you must get help for your
family member as soon as possible. Hospitalization
may be required to keep your loved one safe.
Itís important for the family members of people with
Schizophrenia to prepare for such crisis situations.
Having an emergency plan ready for an acute
psychotic episode will help you handle the crisis
safely and quickly. A good emergency plan for a
family member with Schizophrenia includes:
A list of emergency contact information for your
loved oneís doctor, therapists, and the police.
The address and phone number of the hospital you
will go to in case of emergency for psychiatric
Friends or relatives who will take care of other
children or dependents while you deal with the
Itís also wise to go over the emergency plan with
your family member. The crisis situation may be less
frightening and upsetting to your loved one If he or
she knows what to expect during an emergency.
10 points for Handling a Schizophrenia Crisis
Remember that you cannot reason with acute
Remember that the person may be terrified by
his/her own feelings of loss of control
Do not express irritation or anger
Do not shout
Do not use sarcasm as a weapon
Decrease distractions (turn off the TV, radio,
fluorescent lights that hum, etc.)
Ask any casual visitors to leaveóthe fewer people
Avoid direct continuous eye contact
Avoid touching the person
Sit down and ask the person to sit down also
Tip 6: Explore Housing Options
Treatment for Schizophrenia cannot succeed if your
family member doesnít have a stable, supportive
place to live. But finding the right living
situation for a person with Schizophrenia can be
challenging. When considering housing options, think
about the individual needs of the person with
Can your family member care for him or herself?
How much support does he or she need with daily
Does your family member have a drug or alcohol
How much treatment supervision does he or she
Living with family
For many families, the most difficult choice
involves whether or not the relative with
Schizophrenia should live at home. Living with
family can be a good option for people with
Schizophrenia if their family members understand the
illness well, have a strong support system of their
own, and are willing and able to provide whatever
assistance is needed.
At-home arrangements are less likely to be
successful if the person with Schizophrenia uses
drugs or alcohol, resists taking medication, or is
aggressive or uncooperative.
Choosing the Right Housing Option for a Person with
Living with family works best if:
The person with Schizophrenia functions at a
fairly high level, has friendships, and is involved
in activities outside the home.
The interaction among family members is relaxed.
The person with Schizophrenia intends to take
advantage of available support services.
The living situation does not negatively impact
the lives of any young children in the home.
Living with family is not advised if:
The main support person is single, ill, or
The person with Schizophrenia is so ill that there
is little or no chance to lead a normal family life.
The situation causes stress in the marriage or
leaves children in the home feeling frightened and
Most family events and concerns revolve around the
person with Schizophrenia.
Support services are not used or are unavailable.
Try not to feel guilty if you are unequipped to
house a family member with Schizophrenia. If you
canít look after your own needs or those of others
in the family while caring for your ill relative, he
or she will be better off somewhere else.
Residential options outside the family home
If an at-home living arrangement isnít the right
fit, make contact with local mental health
facilities, social service agencies, support groups,
and public housing authorities. These organizations
can help you explore the residential facilities in
your community and put your family memberís name on
the appropriate waiting lists.
Options in your area may include:
Residential treatment facilities or 24-hour care
A more structured living environment for
those who require greater assistance with
medications and daily living tasks or for those
going through an acute psychotic episode.
Transitional group home:
An intensive program that
helps individuals transition back into society and
avoid relapse after a crisis or hospitalization.
Includes skills training and rehabilitation
Foster or boarding homes:
A group living situation
for people with Schizophrenia who are able to
function relatively well on their own. Foster and
boarding homes offer a certain degree of
independence, while providing meals and other basic
An option for those whose condition is less severe
or well-managed with medication. Residents live
alone or share an apartment, with staff members
available on-site to provide assistance and support.