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Schizophrenia and the Caregiver - Topic Overview

As a family member or close friend, you may help take care of your loved one who has schizophrenia. You can help your loved one stay in treatment, take his or her medicines, and prevent symptoms from coming back (relapse).

Along the way, be sure to take care of yourself too. It can be hard to watch a family member—who in the past was happily planning for the future—develop symptoms of confusion and paranoia. Family members may need to seek support or treatment to help them cope with the demands of the illness and the loss they may feel.

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Working With Schizophrenia

You may think holding down a job is too much for someone with schizophrenia. But with treatment, many people can -- and should -- stay in the game. "People feel better about themselves if they're doing something productive," says Steven Jewell, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University. "It's critical to recovery to move forward with your life, whether it's at school or at work." Jewell advocates a team approach to providing patients the treatment, skills, and support...

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Tips for family members and friends

  • Accept that schizophrenia is a long-term problem. People who do this usually adjust better to helping their loved ones. Keep in touch with your loved one's doctor, therapist, or counselor about how things are going.
  • Keep your emotions in check. Too much emotion can make recovery harder, because it can be very stressful to your loved one. Try not to be critical, over-involved, or mean. Don't blame your loved one for his or her behavior.
  • Be calm and soothing when your loved one has severe symptoms. Call the person quietly by name, or ask the person to tell you what he or she is experiencing. Don't argue or tell him or her that the voices aren't real. Call for help if you think the situation could become dangerous.
  • Work cooperatively with your family member's health care team and teachers and with other members of your community when needed.
  • Make a plan with all family members about how to take care of your loved one during times of relapse.
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