According to recent studies in the UK, one in six people will need treatment for mental health during their lifetime. Meanwhile, one in 100 people will experience an episode of schizophrenia.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia can be devastating not only for the individual but also for their loved ones. It can be difficult to think clearly, manage emotions, and even function properly. However, caring for an older loved one with schizophrenia doesn’t mean they can’t live a meaningful life.
While dealing with a loved one’s schizophrenia can be difficult, there are ways to help guide them on the road to recovery. Here are five essential care tips for older loved ones with schizophrenia.
1. Understand What They’re Experiencing
Hallucinations, voices, confusing conversation, and odd ideas – these things may seem unbelievable to most of us. However, they can be very real, and even terrifying to the person who experiences them.
There is no harm in trying to explain that those experiences are not real, however, you need to approach with caution and be sensitive about the situation. You will also have to understand what they are experiencing to learn how to detect the early onset.
2. Work With the Doctor
Once the doctor has given the proper diagnosis, they will recommend the best treatment options for schizophrenia. Medication is not the only method for treating schizophrenia. In fact, there are plenty of options to help manage the symptoms, such as:
- Inpatient therapy.
- Electroconvulsive therapy.
- Family therapy.
3. Accept the Conditions
Acceptance is vital to providing proper care for patients with schizophrenia. Caregivers must learn not to criticise their elders and avoid saying anything that might negatively affect them. Refrain from asking questions like “why don’t you do this?” or “Why did you keep doing that?”
When their self-esteem is low, this will hinder their potential to improve. Just like anyone else, if they were able to do something, they would.
4. Learn How to Respond
When an older patient is experiencing hallucinations or delusions, they will truly believe that they are real. Telling them those voices are not real will not help them. In fact, it will only lead to distrust and hostility.
While you might feel unsure about what to do or say when someone believes or sees something you don’t, it is important to remember their experiences are real to them. By giving them validity, you will help them feel better and feel understood. It will lead to them trusting you more, and then you can find a solution to what they saw and heard.
5. Freedom of Technology
Thanks to the latest advancements in technology, patients and caregivers can stay in touch at all times. Using a personal alarm system will benefit those who are at risk of falling, have cases of forgetfulness, or are seeking some independence. Not only does this give older people the freedom to live independently, but they will also feel a sense of control of their life.
When someone you love experiences the symptoms of schizophrenia, it can be difficult to stay positive throughout treatment. What’s important is how you invest time and energy into the well-being of your loved one. You can also discuss the useful ways to provide support with the help of family and friends.
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Editor's Note: This article was updated on 9th August 2021 to reflect current information.