Being a caregiver of someone who has schizophrenia often requires extra understanding and effort. But your support can help your loved one decrease the effects of the condition and reduce the chances of a relapse. These strategies can help you promote self-care for schizophrenia.
Encourage Healthy Choices: Successfully managing schizophrenia means making some lifestyle changes that can be difficult to accomplish alone. Here are three lifestyle choices you can support in order to help your loved one with schizophrenia:
Quit smoking and drinking: Nearly half of people with schizophrenia abuse a substance, often cigarettes and alcohol. Studies show that people with schizophrenia who also have a substance abuse problem are more likely to experience severe symptoms.
To help your loved one quit smoking, create a smoke-free environment by removing ashtrays and cigarettes from the home. You can follow a similar strategy for alcohol or other drugs by removing the substances and any reminders of them from his or her presence. Also, plan activities, such as walks, to focus your loved one’s attention on more healthy pursuits. Remain positive and provide encouragement; don’t bring up any times when your loved one has tried and failed to quit.
Maintain a healthy weight: Many antipsychotic drugs can slow the metabolism and cause weight gain, which puts your loved one at risk of obesity-related health conditions. A nutritious diet and regular exercise can help prevent diabetes and heart conditions and even improve mood.
Those with schizophrenia often have diets that are high in fat and low in protein and fiber. When cooking for your loved one, create dishes that are low in fat and include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Another way to help maintain a healthy weight is to encourage your loved one to get 30 to 40 minutes of exercise a day. The best ways to do this? Create a schedule, sign up for a class that meets regularly, and work out together.
Get quality sleep: People with mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, often suffer from too little sleep or interrupted sleep, or they get too much sleep. Suggest that your loved one avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine before bed — serve him or her a glass of milk or a healthy snack instead. Also, go to bed at the same time every night to stabilize sleep patterns.
A few hours before bedtime, dim the lights and ask your loved one to avoid bright computer screens and action or drama shows on television.
Ward Off a Relapse: About half of the 2 million Americans with schizophrenia can recover or significantly reduce symptoms with treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. However, about 20 percent of those with schizophrenia who are on medication will relapse within a year after treatment of an acute episode. To help your loved one avoid a relapse, follow these three tips
Take medication: Encourage your loved one to follow his or her treatment plan closely, and to always take medicine as prescribed. Quitting medication suddenly can be dangerous.
Know signs of relapse: Pay attention to the personal triggers of your loved one and to episodes of schizophrenia symptoms. Changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, or social life can be signs of a relapse.
Stay connected: Work with your loved one’s health care team for tips on preventing relapses. Regular communication between an individual’s support system and health care team is a good way to catch early signs of a relapse. You and other caregivers are likely to notice subtle changes in your loved one’s behavior before he or she does.
Taken from Everyday Health
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