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Schizophrenia (this link will take you to a page about schizophrenia on the World Health Organisation website) is a condition that affects over 150,000 Australians. It’s a chronic disorder that causes people to have hallucinations and delusions, as well as causes behavioural issues and disorganised speech patterns.

It’s often a difficult condition to deal with and may cause a person to experience many negative emotions, like anger, sadness, and fear.

If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, what they’re going through may be difficult to grasp. Oftentimes, the person under your care may start to lose interest in daily activities and start becoming withdrawn from you and everyone else.

Despite this, however, people living with schizophrenia can experience an improvement in their symptoms if the right kind of support is given to them. 

The first steps toward supporting your loved one are to accept the condition and the challenges it brings, understand that schizophrenia is a condition that can have a life-long impact and people may not completely recover from it and that you need to think about your needs as well.

There are several ways you can support the person under your care through their battle with schizophrenia.

Encourage treatment

Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder and individuals with the condition will require help from a medical professional.

Oftentimes, people living with schizophrenia refuse treatment, stating that they don’t need any help. This is usually due to the symptoms of the condition making them think that way.

It’s important that the person under your care sees a medical professional as soon as possible, but you shouldn’t force them.

The first step to getting them to visit a doctor is to let them choose the doctor they want to make an appointment with, to give them more control over their situation. This will help motivate them to work with a doctor on their treatment.

Sometimes, the person under your care may be hesitant to go to a doctor because they’re afraid they’ll be judged.

Try to make the doctor feel less threatening by suggesting that the person under your care is being taken to the doctor to get help for a particular symptom of schizophrenia, such as lack of sleep and fatigue.

Early intervention can prevent schizophrenia symptoms from worsening, so make sure to get the person under your care to a doctor at the earliest signs of the condition.

Validate and listen to them

Good communication is an effective way to help a person with schizophrenia.

It can be difficult to fully understand what the person under your care is going through when they describe the kinds of hallucinations they experience. Sometimes, you may not be sure about how to respond, but that’s alright.

Even if you’re not sure about what to say to them, never invalidate them. The delusions and hallucinations they see feel real to them and you should try to help them overcome these experiences.

For example, if the person under your care says they feel like someone is watching them, ask them if they’d like you to stay with them for a while. Saying things like this will assure the person under your care that you understand how they feel and you want to help them.

People with schizophrenia may have difficulty communicating, sometimes saying things that are incoherent. This is a common symptom of the condition.

With this in mind, you should always be patient when talking to the person under your care. Give them time to say what’s on their mind and let them explain things in their own way.

Communication can take time and patience, but it will help the person under your care feel more comfortable in the situation.

Look for housing options

The person under your care may wish to live independently, despite their condition. When looking for good housing options, you may need to consider a few things:

    • Can the person under your care take care of themselves?
    • Will you be able to continue supporting them in your home?
    • How will they get help when experiencing a schizophrenic episode?

Fortunately, there are special housing options, such as supported accommodations (this link will take you to a blog post on the Shine SC website about supported accommodations for people of all abilities) available. These are places where the person under your care can live as independently as possible with assistance from care workers.

Prepare for relapses

Even if the person under your care has been receiving adequate support from a doctor and they’re taking their prescribed medication, there is always a chance that they may relapse.

Early warning signs of a relapse can include:

    • Becoming socially withdrawn again
    • Displays of aggressive behaviour
    • Showing signs of paranoia
    • Poor personal hygiene

To help prevent a crisis, speak with the person under your care about developing a plan that will help them handle a relapse. The plan may include the following:

    • A list of common signs of relapse
    • Numbers of medical professionals
    • Ways to help the person under your care calm down
    • A list of the medication they’re taking and their medical history

Relapses can happen at any time, so having a crisis plan made in advance can help the person under your care get their symptoms under control again quickly.

Help them avoid falling into addiction

Some individuals with schizophrenia turn to alcohol and illicit drugs to deal with their symptoms, and this can lead to addiction and other medical problems.

Keep alcohol and any kind of medicines or drugs that they could abuse out of their reach and try to help them find a hobby that can help them cope with the symptoms, such as painting or writing.

Support services can help people living with schizophrenia

Supporting a person with schizophrenia by yourself can be difficult, especially if you have to do it on your own. Today, there are many organisations that provide services to help people with mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia.

With their help, you can give the person under your care the care they need and assist them in their fight with schizophrenia.

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