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Treatment - Family Support

Kathryn Patricelli, MA, edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Family Support

Family members can play an important role in helping to keep their relatives with schizophrenia supported and oriented to reality. Before they can be properly supportive, however, they must first understand schizophrenia. They need to accept that schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain just like diabetes is a disorder of the body. It is not anyone's fault and is not a moral or spiritual failure. Family members need to know this information so that they do not blame their relatives for having schizophrenia or think of them as just being lazy. People are often incapacitated and can be a drain on family energy and resources. This is not intentional on the part of people with the disorder, who are in many ways victims more than anything else.

family fighting The single most important thing family members can do to support their ill relatives is to help them remain oriented and on task with their therapy. They can help them stay on their medication, and attend scheduled psychotherapy sessions and doctor visits. Family members can also help relatives with personal care, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular exercise (even if it's just a walk).

Therapy is work for people with schizophrenia, who already suffer from a condition that robs them of their judgment abilities. When left on their own, many people with schizophrenia are will avoid therapy or to attend it only occasionally, which can cause a great deal of problems. Family members can help their relatives by continually encouraging them to keep their therapy appointments, and do things to make it more likely that treatment is continued.

Caring for relatives who are ill is frequently painful and heartbreaking. Family members may benefit from getting therapy for themselves as well as for their relatives. Participating in a self-help group for families of those with schizophrenia is known to reduce the sense of burden, aloneness and stress that families may feel.