Hello and greetings. You are doing an incredible job already! Living with someone with schizophrenia can sometimes be hard. Even before we start, make sure schizophrenia is being treated, currently, the best evidence points toward psychotropic medication. If your loved one is diagnosed with schizophrenia but isn’t on medication, please talk to a psychiatrist immediately. Medication can improve insight and reduce the conviction people hold on their delusional beliefs. Here are five things you can do to help your loved one.
Do not try to reason with the delusions.
Suspiciousness and fear are often a central problem in schizophrenia, these fears may seem unreal or even absurd to us but they are very real and cause significant distress to those suffering from schizophrenia. It is important to understand that delusions do not change despite evidence to the contrary. Please refrain from arguments or prolonged discussions against the delusions. There is very little you can do about them. Focus on the distress that the delusions lead to.
Focus on dealing with the distress, not on the delusions.
Try to empathize with your loved one without getting drawn into their delusions. Try to understand how distressed you would be if those thoughts occurred to you. You cannot change these thoughts, but you can do a lot to help them deal with the distress. Be loving and kind, acknowledge the distress, reiterate that you are there for them. Make sure conversations do not get restricted to medication and symptoms. Remember that your loved one has likes and dislikes, wishes and dreams. It’s important to keep your conversations comforting and positive. Try to focus on all parts of life that aren’t in the delusional system. Make sure you aren’t threatening them or blackmail them into taking medication. You want to communicate to your loved one that everyone is working to help them out.
The basics first
Several people with schizophrenia or psychosis are able to carry on in their educational and occupational responsibilities despite the disorder. If your loved one is suffering from a severe form of the illness wherein their activity is restricted, we need to focus on the basics. All of us have basic needs. Regular meals, restful sleep, a safe environment, some physical activity and something productive to do. Make a simple schedule for meals, medication, recreation and sleep. If your loved one is too sedated to perform these activities or too restless to cooperate, please talk to your psychiatrist. Physical exercise can improve mood, improve sleep and reduce agitation. Make sure their medication is being taken as prescribed.
Do not hesitate to take help
You may need some time off from your care giving duties or you may require some assistance during violent episodes. Realize that despite being a strong person, some situations will still overwhelm you. You need to build a support system to reach out to in case you need help. These support systems are better organized at the beginning of the illness so that you don’t feel helpless or burnt out. Family, friends and mental health services can help you in organizing a support system.
Take care of yourself
You might feel angry, resentful and burnt out. There is often a sense of helplessness that descends upon people who love and care for those with mental illness. Sometimes we end up directing our anger toward those who are stuck with the illness. You have to remember that you need to take a step back, make sure that at least some of your needs are met before you try to help someone. Make sure you are eating right, make sure you have enough sleep and try to get in touch with supportive friends and family. If you are unable to manage the distress, take help from a professional. Dealing with caregiver burden.
Things will get better, stick in there!