Because of the nature of schizophrenia, the patients may have difficulty understanding the illness. Nevertheless, teaching the patient to understand the importance of medication compliance and abstinence from alcohol and other drugs of abuse is important.
We have poor understanding of this illness and unacceptably poor treatment. Research is ongoing into the pathophysiology and treatment of this illness. With earlier intervention with improved agents the goal is complete resolution of all symptoms of this illness and continuation or resumption of a full meaningful life.
Family members can play an important role in helping to keep their schizophrenic relatives supported and oriented. Before they can be properly supportive, however, they must first understand and accept that schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain just like diabetes is a disorder of the body; not anyone's fault; and not an indication of moral or spiritual failure. Family members need to know this so that they do not blame their schizophrenic relatives for being schizophrenic, or think of them as willfully lazy. Patients are often incapacitated, and a drain on family energy and resources, but this is not intentional on the part of patients, who are in many ways victims more than anything else.
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 therapeutic routines; helping them stay on medications, and attend scheduled psychotherapy sessions and doctor visits, for instance. Family members can also benefit their ill relatives by helping them with with personal care, eating a well- balanced diet, and getting regular exercise (even if it's just a walk).
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