Care for loved ones who have schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects the entire family. It can be difficult to watch a family member who was once happily planning for the future develop symptoms of confusion and paranoia. Family members often have very important roles in the lives and treatment of a person with schizophrenia, and they also may need to seek support or treatment to help them cope with the demands of the illness and the loss they may feel.

You can help yourself handle your loved one's illness best when you:

  • Learn about schizophrenia and the first signs of relapse.
  • Work cooperatively with your family member's health care team, teachers, and other members of your community when needed.
  • Manage your fears and concerns and those of other family members. Sometimes parents try to protect their children from knowing that someone in the family has a disease like schizophrenia, but it is important to include children in the discussions of the needs of a family member with this disease. If children are not included, they may develop unrealistic fears and concerns.
  • Know your legal rights and the legal rights of your family member. For more information about the rights of family members, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.
  • Develop a plan with all family members about how to take care of your loved one during times of relapse.
  • Take care of yourself. Continue to stay involved with your own interests, such as your career, hobbies, personal interests, and friends. Use techniques such as exercise, positive self-talk, relaxation, and deep breathing exercises to help manage your stress.
  • Seek counseling if needed. If you are having problems dealing with your feelings about your family member's condition, talk with a health professional about whether counseling may be helpful. Be sure the counselor you choose has experience working with families of people who have schizophrenia or similar conditions. Sometimes joining a support group can help—talking with other people who have family members with schizophrenia can be comforting.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve. Since schizophrenia often develops during the late teen and young adult years, it may mean the loss of dreams you had for your family member. If the symptoms are severe, you may feel you have lost your loved one. You may need to deal with negative emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration. After you work through your feelings, you will be better able to care for yourself and your family.

Last Updated: August 28, 2008

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