Schizophrenia and How It Affects the Caregivers

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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental disorder that is characterized by disturbances in how a person feels, thinks, and behaves.  People with schizophrenia appear to be out of touch with reality, living in their own different world. Some symptoms like delusion and hallucination pose harm to not only the patients but also to the people around them.

Schizophrenia affects not only its patients, but also the family and friends of the patients. Most books tell us how to deal with patients of schizophrenia, but only a chosen few tell us how to deal with those family members who fight together with the patient. So, what about other people? How do we help the children of schizophrenic parents, the mothers of schizophrenic children, and the sibling of a schizophrenic brother? Caregivers are in need of little aid too. Here are some things that you can do to help them out.

 

Remind them to be strong, but allow them to be fragile

Schizophrenia is a demanding and unending battle. Patients are not the only ones to endure this journey, but also their caregivers. These caregivers are often too busy to remember how fragile they are. They get too occupied with staying strong throughout the struggle that they forget they are human—delicate and vulnerable. Remind them that their strength is vital, but it’s okay to be tired.

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Check on Their Physical Health

The stress of caring for a family member with a mental disorder often makes people neglect their physical health. The last thing a family needs is another member getting sick. So before this happens, remind caregivers to take care of their health: don’t skip meals, try to sleep as much as they can, take extra vitamins and some healthy steps.

 

Tell Them to Take Some Time Off

Schizophrenia disrupts the normal lives of caregivers as well. Because they’re so busy taking care of the patient’s needs, caregivers end up with very little personal time. However, every single human being needs rest. Not just physical rest, but emotional and spiritual rest. Caregivers should now and then take at least a day off and try not to worry about their loved ones too much (although this is inevitable).

 

Give Them Emotional Support

Fighting emotional struggles in silence has more negative results than positive. Those who are led to believe that their emotions are invalid, or that they cannot talk about them to anyone, often develop deviant behaviors. Considering the unlikeliness of being in a family with a schizophrenic member, the caregivers of patients with schizophrenia are very prone to believe that no one will understand them.

Give them emotional support by listening. A listening ear is still the best therapy for emotional stress. Talking about their struggles relieve them of heartaches and is also a very reflective act.

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Caregivers sacrifice their lives without expecting anything in return. Their sacrifices are also noteworthy and should be affirmed constantly. A reminder or two about how important they are will surely make a great difference.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD