Care for schizophrenia is usually provided by family members or other close people, and it plays an important role in ensuring that people with this mental illness can lead a fulfilling life.
However, it is natural that caregivers of people with schizophrenia will feel frustrated, stressed, and helpless in this role.
As a caregiver, you must be both a support system for family members and a contact person for their healthcare. In other words, you need to handle many different responsibilities through a steep learning curve, which is not easy.
Not only do you need to quickly understand and understand the disease and the wide range of behaviors it may involve, but you also need to determine how to best provide care without being excessive or causing excessive stress.
To say the least, this is a delicate balancing act, not easy. However, if done right, it provides the best opportunity for people with schizophrenia to thrive.
What is schizophrenia?
If you are the caregiver of someone with schizophrenia, you may already be familiar with the signs and symptoms of this mental illness, as shown below.
The diagnosis of schizophrenia requires meeting two or more of the following criteria within at least one month, at least one of which must be the first three symptoms in the list:
In addition, there must be barriers to work, interpersonal relationships, or self-care for a considerable period of time.
Likewise, the signs of the disease must last at least six months and include at least one month of symptoms consistent with the symptoms listed above.
In order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is necessary to exclude other diseases as the cause of symptoms, such as schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder with psychotic characteristics, substance use, another medical condition or autism spectrum or communication obstacle.
The effects of schizophrenia
In addition to the diagnostic criteria, patients with schizophrenia will also show signs of many diseases that affect their daily lives. These include the following:
- Reacting inappropriately to the situation (for example, laughing at sad news)
- Disturbed sleep mode
- Anger, anxiety, depression, or phobia
- Feeling out of touch with myself
- Feel that everything around is not real
- Language, memory and executive function problems
- Can’t see that my symptoms are caused by the disease
- Failure to correctly explain social situations
- Become hostile or attack others
As a caregiver, the more you know about schizophrenia, the better you will be able to help your family. Do your part by understanding symptoms, treatment, prognosis, and other details so that you can be better prepared to take on this role effectively.
Basic daily needs
People with schizophrenia may need help with basic tasks of daily living. As a caregiver, helping to organize these tasks is part of your responsibilities. If you are not born to be an organized person, or are already struggling with your daily life, you may need to consider whether the role of a caregiver is right for you.
You may need help arranging appointments, transporting appointments, creating routines and predictable environments, and setting realistic goals.
People with schizophrenia may take prescription drugs and may receive treatment. As a caregiver, you also have tasks related to these areas.
Some tasks you may find yourself involved in include:
- Take medicine
- Monitor drug use
- Observe the side effects and bring them to the attention of the doctor or psychiatrist so that you can change the medicine or add other medicines to combat the side effects
- Encourage patients with schizophrenia to take medication regularly
- Use a medication calendar to track usage
- Encourage the use of pill boxes or timers
- Help take long-acting injections
- Master potential drug interactions
- Keep a list of medications and supplements you are taking
- Ensure that alcohol and drugs are not mixed with drugs
- Keep a medication log so you can understand what works
Patients with schizophrenia can also participate in treatment to control their symptoms. Examples might include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, life skills training, or social skills training. Your role as a caregiver may be to assist patients in receiving treatment, to ensure continued treatment, or to help complete homework.
One of the key challenges in caring for a person with schizophrenia is to ensure that both you and the other person receive adequate social support.
Social support for patients with schizophrenia
The following are some of the social support you, as a caregiver, may want to ensure for people with schizophrenia. It is important to realize that you cannot do all of this by yourself. You need back-up help to do things, such as driving people to a date, taking them to a movie or visit, or bringing a meal.
- Respite care (please referral by doctor or caseworker)
- Friends/family who are willing to help
- Hire a coordinator (for example, pay someone $100 a month and spend 5 hours building a support system for your loved ones)
- Other sources of support (e.g. shelter staff, roommates, case managers, clergy)
Social support for caregivers
Don’t forget to support yourself! Caring for people with schizophrenia can lead to physical and mental fatigue. The more you support yourself, the better you will be able to provide excellent care. Here are some ideas:
- Join a support group with others who are also caregivers
- Contact the National League for Mental Illness to learn about ongoing programs to support caregivers of people with mental illness
- Contact an anonymous person with schizophrenia to get friends/family resources
- If you feel exhausted, talk to a friend, family member, priest or therapist
Good self-care is important for both schizophrenic patients and caregivers. This does not mean just taking a bubble bath; it means doing some basic things to make sure your happiness is the top priority. Here are some examples:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Do not abuse alcohol or drugs
- Use relaxation techniques
- Spend time with friends
- enough rest
- Engage in pleasant activities
- Use mindfulness or breathing techniques
- Keep a sense of humor
Remember, illness can bring emotional loss to both of you, making them feel frustrated, angry, fearful, guilty, or helpless.
Always make sure to meet your own needs first and accept your negative emotions so that you can find a way to deal with it instead of ignoring the problem.
Do you have a plan for what you will do in a crisis situation? The first thing to know is the signs of recurrence, such as trouble sleeping, social withdrawal, lack of personal hygiene, paranoia, hostility, hallucinations, etc.
As a caregiver of a person with schizophrenia, it is important to know what to do in a crisis. Here are some key things you should have:
- All contact information (doctors, therapists, hospitals, family and friends provide childcare services when needed)
- Plan on how to deal with acute mental illness (keep calm, recognize potential fears, don’t argue about delusions, and gently shift the conversation to safe topics)
- Plan to help them (it is recommended to see a doctor for specific symptoms (such as insomnia); if they are resistant, let them choose which professional to see, so they will feel more in control)
Remember, as a caregiver, your job is to speak for your family, even if they may oppose you. You need to help the doctor understand the situation and stay in touch with the treatment plan. Without your help, your loved one may not be able to handle basic tasks such as eating, dressing, and finding shelter in a crisis. Remember, the sooner you get their help, the better they will be.
Most importantly, be sure to discuss emergency care plans with them when they are not in crisis. This will help reduce your feeling of being threatened when you actually encounter this situation.
Finally, keep a diary of your symptoms so that you can quickly tell when the situation has changed and may have begun to relapse.
The more people with schizophrenia can do for themselves, the better their self-esteem and hope for the future will be.
Therefore, as a caregiver, you should encourage the use of coping skills and self-help strategies in areas of life affected by the disease. For example, you can help your family to set realistic goals, encourage action and strive for success in life, while reducing some of the pressure on this person.
In this way, you can help people with schizophrenia do everything they can, thereby enhancing their abilities.
Dealing with stigma
As a family caregiver, you may also worry about the stigma you may face due to the behavior of people with schizophrenia. You may even want to conceal their illness; however, this will only exacerbate the stigma. Instead, try to accept their illness while trying to make them live their best lives.
People with schizophrenia need a stable residence. Deciding where to proceed depends on how much they can take care of themselves and how much supervision they need.
If feasible, living with a caregiver is usually the best option, unless the person has serious problems that require more supervision of the environment, such as drug abuse, refusal to take medication, or other behavioral problems. If there are other people in your family, it is also important to consider the impact on them, especially the impact on young children.
Other options include residential treatment facilities or 24-hour care facilities, group homes or supervised apartments.
Very good sentence
If you are the caregiver of someone with schizophrenia, it is important to strike a balance between providing the best care possible and not letting yourself burn out. If you find it difficult to help, please contact the care team and request a referral for support.
Although it may be tempting to try to do all of this yourself, the role you assume involves a lot of pressure and you will eventually need support. At the very least, try to join a group that can support you and discuss issues with you and find solutions.
Finally, please note that your role as a caregiver is very important for people with schizophrenia. Literally, you may be the only one who saves that person from unemployment, homelessness, and other negative consequences of illness.
You should be proud of the work you do and realize its importance. Never underestimate the changes you bring to that person and the impact your help will have on their lives.