Schizophrenia is complex. A person living with
the disease is easily overwhelmed by their
surrounding environment. Their speech and behavior
may be disorganized and delusional. Concentration is
limited and appropriate emotional responses minimal.
Communications with caregivers and medical providers
are part of this chaotic dynamic. The best thing a
caregiver can do before embarking on any important
conversation is to make sure they are prepared. They
must know when to communicate, what to communicate
and how. A skillful communicator will be able to
resolve issues and make daily living for their loved
one with schizophrenia a much more pleasant
A caregiver cannot force a loved one with
schizophrenia into a conversation, especially if
they are agitated or excited. Trying to calm them is
a way many people may attempt to proceed, but only
if the caregiver knows they can. Otherwise, let them
settle on their own.
hallucinations, which become a barrier to rational
conversation. If these are present, itís best a
caregiver wait to have a serious talk. The loved one
is not in the right frame of mind, or mentally able
to move forward.
The caregiverís attitude at the time is just as
important and has a big effect on the conversationís
outcome. The first thing to remember is to not take
insults and verbal outbursts personally. A
caregiver cannot change delusions, nor should they
challenge them. A caregiver's logical thoughts will
only further confirm that a loved one's
schizophrenic delusions are real.
It's also not a good idea to speak with a loved
one during a time of personal distress. A caregiver
should not expect a person with schizophrenia to
deeply care about their problems. This is almost
certainly a result of the disease, which may cause
frustration and sadness for a caregiver. The reality
of schizophrenia is often brought to life at the
expense of the caregiverís emotions. This is why
itís important a caregiver really make an educated
decision whether the time is right to have a
conversation with a schizophrenic loved one.
Preparation is vital to success for both parties,
and eliminating undue conflict.
From family to physicians, a caregiver for
someone with schizophrenia spends much time in
medical appointments. The talk is usually of
treatments, diagnosis, future concerns, etc. At
some point, a caregiver must re-enter the world of
their loved one and explain the details in laymen's
terms. Discussing several issues at once will be
overwhelming for a loved one, so professionals
suggest a caregiver choose one area that is really
important. Itís helpful to focus on a specific
behavioral problem that needs addressing before
transitioning to the next.
If the situation is negative, a caregiver should
say exactly the concern, and how he or she would
like it fixed. Those living with schizophrenia have
a difficult time processing feelings of others, so
this direct-talking skill is one a caregiver should
master. Itís especially important when the situation
could be dangerous, such as a medication need, or
also is personal, such as making the caregiver feel
scared during an upsetting episode.
Social withdrawal is also a top symptom of the
illness, and keeping the conversation light and
positive encourages friendship and connection.
Everyone wants to feel like they belong, and itís a
caregiverís responsibility to help their loved one
feel that, regardless of the situation. This can be
done by discussing, or doing things the person
enjoys. What are their hobbies? Think of activities
they find fun or help distract from the day-to-day
life with schizophrenia. While medical talk is
necessary, the friendship between caregiver and
loved one is too.
The old adage stands true for a person living
with schizophrenia: keep it simple.
Whether verbal or nonverbal, communication with too
many elements or expectations of response will send
a red flag to a loved one living with schizophrenia.
They also tend to have a theory that they are above
rational and normal logic. This can be challenging
for a caregiver to cope with. Professionals
recommend caregivers just not indulge the notions,
but donít disallow them either. Meet the person
where they are, and accept this. It may not be a
real concern to a caregiver, but to a loved one with
schizophrenia, their manifestations are completely
real. When trying to reason or make sense, itís
recommended caregivers use ďI feelĒ statements
rather than ďI thinkĒ ones.
communication, here are some guidelines. First,
stand close to a loved one, but do not crowd their
personal space. Maintain eye contact and show
interest in their ideas. This is accomplished
through posture and engaging facial expressions.
Last, speak calmly and clearly. Any extra confusion
may be too much for a loved one to handle.
easy for a person with schizophrenia to feel very
isolated, especially with a challenge of normal
communication. As a caregiver, a way to be a loved
oneís advocate is to not think of them as someone
with schizophrenia, but a person with an illness.
They are not the illness. Communication is important
in any relationship, but with a schizophrenic loved
one, some learned and applied skills will help the
relationship even more.
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