Schizophrenia can be one of the most difficult mental illnesses to face— and a lot of that comes from the stigma set forth by society. But schizophrenia is a highly treatable and manageable disorder when done right. And one of the most significant success factors for people with schizophrenia is getting the proper support and care from their friends, family, and caregivers. Getting the proper care and treatment can ensure they live a long, fulfilling life with limited symptoms.
Our guide will help at-home caregivers offer the best possible care and support for loved ones or patients with schizophrenia. We’ll offer tips, tricks, and how best to approach this illness with compassion and patience.
What Are Schizophrenia Symptoms?
One of the first steps in understanding how to care for someone with schizophrenia is recognizing the symptoms. Schizophrenia can present itself in several ways, and frequently, it’s different for everyone. The most common symptoms include:
- Disorganized speech or behavior
- Lack of hygiene
- Lacking emotion or doesn’t express it through facial expressions
- Abnormal motor behavior
This is just a small glimpse into the symptoms of schizophrenia, which can make it difficult to notice early on. Simply put, people with schizophrenia will have trouble with cognitive thinking, physical or mental behavior, and emotions.
These symptoms can vary greatly, especially between teens vs. adults being diagnosed. Interestingly, teenagers are far less likely to experience delusions and hallucinations than adults. Teenagers with schizophrenia might have other symptoms more like the following:
- Lack of motivation
- Social withdrawal from family and friends
- Poor performance in school
- Sleep problems
- Irritability or depression
The earlier schizophrenia is caught and treated, the better off an individual may be. But this can be difficult because the diagnosis and the noticing of symptoms often do fall on friends, family, coworkers, and those close to the individual. Because they lack the cognitive ability to be aware of some of the changes, it can be challenging to self-diagnose schizophrenia. But once the diagnosis comes, treatment can begin.
How to Treat Someone With Schizophrenia
At-home care is often an excellent option for caring for someone with schizophrenia. They can be in a familiar spot with their own things, and if treatment goes well, they shouldn’t require round-the-clock care in a facility.
So how does one treat a family member with schizophrenia? A combination of medication, therapy, and self-care will create a regimen with a great success rate of treating the mental health disorder.
There are quite a few medications that can be used to treat a person with schizophrenia. The tough part of any mental illness, including depression or anxiety, is finding that perfect combination of meds that ensure proper and comfortable symptoms treatment. While there are dozens of options, some of the most common and effective medications according to WebMD include:
- Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
- Fluphenazine (Prolixin)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Perphenazine (Trilafon)
- Thioridazine (Mellaril)
- Thiothixene (Navane)
- Trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
It may take some trial and error to find the right medications with minimal side effects that alleviate symptoms, but when you find it, it is a game changer. This might be one of the hardest parts of treatment, and it’s important for caregivers to help their loved one remain patient and hopeful that relief will come if they stick it through.
The next step in treatment is often therapy. Therapy can come in many forms, but the goal is always to help the individual talk through their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a safe space with someone they trust. For schizophrenia patients, cognitive behavioral therapyhas been shown to be quite effective. This type of therapy helps change how patients think about themselves and the world around them.
This cognitive-behavioral therapy might include:
- Working on dealing with adversity
- Role-playing and simulation therapy
- Learning coping strategies together to progress toward implementation in daily life
- Behavioral coping skills through practice and role-playing
- Family therapy
Self-Care: Healthy Diet, Exercise, “Doing the Work”
Arguably the most important step in at-home care for schizophrenia is self-care. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding drugs and alcohol are all key to maintaining mental health. For caregivers, this means making sure their loved one is eating right, getting enough sleep, and staying active. It’s also important that they keep up with their medication regimen and any therapy appointments.
One of the best things a caregiver can do is encourage their loved one to “do the work.” This means putting in the effort to maintain mental health through self-care. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Some self help strategies include:
- Applying their therapies in real-life scenarios
- Having a set regimen they can do on their own that includes hygiene, eating, and physical activity
- Managing their own appointments, household tasks, and communicating their feelings with their caregiver
Lastly, social support is vital to helping a person live a “normal” life at home, but with some needed assistance. Social support from caregivers, personal assistants, or nurses can be the help they need to thrive. Examples of social support are:
- Helpful friends and family
- Case managers
- Respite care
- Transportation companies (to get them around town)
- Personal assistants
- Service animals
However, the caregivers of people with schizophrenia also deserve (and need) support because it can be a very stressful job that can affect them negatively as well. Helpful resources for schizophrenia caregivers include:
Anyone can reach out to these support resources, whether they are a caregiver or not.
Caregiver Tips for Caring for Someone With Schizophrenia
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how to care for someone with schizophrenia, but these tips and resources should help get you started. Remember to always consult with a doctor or mental health professional before making any changes to medication or treatment plans. And most importantly, be patient and understanding with your loved ones— they are going through a lot. Some tips for caregivers, to recap:
- Get your loved one the help of a mental health professional
- Encourage them to stick with their medication regimen
- Help them find the right therapy for their needs
- Support and encourage self-care practices like eating well and exercising
- Assist with social support, like getting around town or attending appointments
- Seek out support for yourself in order to keep your own health in check, avoid burnout, and be able to care for them to the best of your abilities
If you or someone you know is struggling with schizophrenia, please reach out for help.
Seeking Outside Support for Your Loved Ones
As your loved one ages or their symptoms worsen, it can be beneficial to transition from in-home care to an outpatient program or senior care community. Sunflower Communities is a great resource for moving a parent or loved one into a facility that caters to memory issues, traumatic brain injuries, or other cognitive functions that impair someone’s abilities.
If you’re curious about the offerings we have for in-person treatment or are in need of a full-time facility for someone with schizophrenia— please reach out to the care team at Sunflower Communities. Our kind and knowledgeable staff are here to help guide you through this difficult time and make it easy for you! Contact us here.