In order to fully support your loved one living with schizophrenia, it is important to gain a good understanding of their illness. The healthcare team involved should be prepared to answer any questions you may have about schizophrenia and how it is treated.
People living with schizophrenia are sometimes not able to communicate during an episode. In some cases, only a close friend or family member will be aware of their differing behaviour or ideas. Therefore, you are a valuable source of information at medical appointments. If you are related to the person living with schizophrenia, it will help the healthcare team to know about your family’s medical history, and any medications the patient has been taking.
You may also want to use these appointments to ask questions about treatment, what is best for your loved one, what options are available and what can be done to address any concerns that you may have. It is a good idea to write down any questions you have in advance and have some paper and a pen with you in case you want to take notes.
For the person living with schizophrenia, their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them. It is not helpful to tell someone that what they are seeing is wrong, but it is also not helpful to “go along” with their delusions either. Instead, you can tell your loved one that you do not see things the same way or do not agree with their statements, but acknowledge that things may appear otherwise to them.
With the full agreement of your loved one, you should consider keeping a record of any symptoms, what medications (including dosage) they are taking. By being aware of previous symptoms, you may be able to recognise signs of a relapse, and by knowing which medications have caused troublesome side effects in the past you can help your loved one’s healthcare team to find the best treatment as quickly as possible.
People with schizophrenia, just like everyone else, need to know when they are doing things right. A positive approach may be more helpful and effective in the long term than criticising your loved ones thoughts and behaviour, which may be altered by their condition.
A commonly held misleading view is that people suffering from schizophrenia are ‘violent criminals’ or have ‘split personalities’. As carers, you can help raise awareness of schizophrenia by being open about the condition, talking about its impact and that with proper treatment and support people living with schizophrenia are able to live a normal life. Maintaining a positive relationship with your loved one who is affected by schizophrenia can help them feel valued and can help improve their self-confidence.
Caring for someone with mental health difficulties can be challenging and have a considerable practical and emotional impact on your life. For that reason, it is important that you seek support and guidance.