I’m caring for someone with schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world. People with this disorder often experience hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, which means they have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and not real.
- Trouble controlling impulses
- Odd emotional responses to situations or a lack of emotion
- Hallucinations – experiences that seem real to the person but are created by their mind. This includes seeing things, hearing voices, or smelling things others don’t
- Delusions – this occurs when the person believes something despite evidence or facts to the contrary
- Paranoia – the person believes they are being watched, followed or persecuted
- Thought disorders – unusual ways of thinking or processing information
- Movement disorders – including agitated body movements or strange postures
If you’re caring for someone with schizophrenia, you may be struggling with any number of difficult emotions, including fear, guilt, anger, and frustration. You may feel helpless in the face of their symptoms, worried about the stigma of schizophrenia, or confused and embarrassed by their strange behaviors. It’s important to remember that schizophrenia is an illness.
Seek professional help
A person with schizophrenia will require lifelong treatment from a psychiatrist or mental health professional, as well as medication to help control or reduce the severity of symptoms. You may also find it helpful to speak to a counsellor about your emotions.
Learn as much as you can
Learning about schizophrenia will help you make informed decisions about treatments and coping strategies. If you are able to, go to medical appointments with your care recipient, and bring a list of questions with you for their healthcare team. Check out our tips for how to find credible information. You can also reach out to our 24/7 caregiver helpline at 1-833-416-2273 (CARE) for help accessing resources.
Tips for dealing with hallucinations, delusions or disordered thinking:
- Help the person tell the difference between reality and fantasy – say when you think something is not real, while acknowledging that it may seem real to them
- Let them know it’s their brain chemistry that makes them think they’re seeing or hearing something
- Calmly, gently and matter-of-factly withhold agreement with strange ideas
- Show understanding of their feelings and encourage them to talk openly
- Change the subject to something routine, simple or pleasant in real life
- Try to distract them – involve them in a conversation or activity
Tips for helping to manage aggressive behaviour:
- Speak quietly and calmly, do not shout or threaten the person
- Give a firm, but calm, command such as “Please stop”
- Give the person some space; if possible, remove yourself from the situation
- Discuss aggressive behaviour or threats openly with your family and with a counsellor
- If you feel your care recipient may cause harm to themselves or someone else call 911
- Reach out to ConnexOntario for free health services information for people experiencing problems with mental illness, alcohol or drugs at connexontario.ca/en-ca/about-us or call 1-866-531-2600. This is available 24/7.
- Contact the Kids Help Phone – visit kidshelphone.ca, call 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868. This is available 24/7 and offers support through live chat, text, and phone.
- Connect with other young caregivers in our online peer support group or be part of the conversation in our online forum
- See also mental health and well-being resources
Not sure where to start? Call our 24/7 helpline or talk to us in our live chat to find resources in your community.