The symptoms of schizophrenia manifest in each person differently. Some people with schizophrenia are capable of managing their symptoms and care while others may require the help of family members or a caregiver. Here is a list to guide those people who find themselves in a position to assist or care for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is important to note that everyone with a mental illness can benefit from support even if they manage their own care.

  1. Educate yourself on the symptoms of schizophrenia.

    Knowing what is and what isn’t a symptom of schizophrenia will help you to determine if the person you care for is struggling with their illness. A simple search on Google can provide you with many articles about the difference between the negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia. You can also ask your doctor for available resources and information. Educating yourself is the first step in understanding what the person you care for is experiencing.

  2. Know the side effects of all medications the person you care for is taking.

    Knowing the side effects can alert you to a potentially serious problem before it becomes critical. Many medications require regular blood work to check cholesterol and sugar levels. Check with a doctor for other tests that may be necessary for a specific medication. Make sure to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medications. Some over-the-counter medications can cause negative drug interactions.

  3. Know the rights and laws regarding the mentally ill in the state in which you reside.

    No one wants to think of the worst case scenario, but planning for a crisis or emergency is necessary. If the person you care for needs hospitalization, know the laws regarding involuntary and voluntary commitment in your area. Know the location of the nearest hospital with a floor for patients having a psychiatric crisis.

  4. Make an emergency plan.

    Talk to the person you care for while they are stable and ask them what they would like to do in case of an emergency. Do they want you to contact their psychiatrist immediately? If they do want you to contact their psychiatrist, make sure a “release of information” is in place, so their doctor is legally allowed to share information with you.

  5. Keep all treatment-related telephone numbers in an easily accessible place.

    Some important phone numbers might include pharmacies, therapists, doctors, family members, etc. If there is an emergency, you don’t want to have to search for telephone numbers.

  6. Research all available services in your area.

    The person you care for may be eligible for services of which you are unaware. There also may be groups or research studies that would be beneficial.

  7. Encourage self-care and independence.

    For some people suffering from the symptoms of schizophrenia, things such as personal hygiene can become difficult to maintain. Teaching or encouraging participation in basic skills such as laundry, cooking, and other ways to care for a home and oneself, can help build self-esteem and motivation.

  8. Encourage social interactions.

    Many people with schizophrenia can lack motivation, especially when it comes to social engagement. Some cities and towns have clubhouses for people in recovery from psychiatric crises. Clubhouses can help the person you care for to build relationships, engage in activities, and possibly get job training. If your area doesn’t have a clubhouse or meeting place for people with a mental illness, you can check with your local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) for possible opportunities for social involvement.

  9. Take care of yourself.

    Having a family member with a mental illness can be stressful for everyone involved. Make sure you have a support network for yourself and take the steps necessary to make sure to meet your needs. Coffee with a friend, a night out, a trip to the gym, or any activity that makes you feel good can help give you a renewed sense of energy to meet daily challenges.

With treatment and early intervention, it is possible for people with a schizophrenia diagnosis to recover and return to their former lives. Seeking out examples of people who are living successfully with the same diagnosis can bring hope, and hope can help you make it through some of the most difficult days.

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