Schizophrenia For Dummies
If someone you love is living with schizophrenia it's important to keep contact information on hand in case of an emergency. When your loved one has to go to the hospital or a crisis intervention program, make sure you take necessary items and documentation for treatment. Successfully treating schizophrenia calls for both a psychiatrist who understands mental illness and taking medications regularly, so be sure to ask the right questions to find the right doctor and use some helpful reminders for taking medicine.
Schizophrenia: Emergency Information to Keep Handy
Schizophrenics sometimes require emergency treatment. Everyone should have emergency contact information with them, but it's critical if you suffer from schizophrenia or any serious illness. Fill out the information and have your loved one keep it available, like in a wallet or purse, so the right people can be contacted in case of an emergency:
Names and phone number(s) of emergency contacts (relatives or friends):
Name and phone number of psychiatrist: ______________________________
Name and phone number of primary clinician or case manager: _____________
Name of internist or family doctor: __________________________________
Names and dosages of prescribed medications
Pharmacy name and phone number: __________________________________
What to Bring to a Hospital, Emergency Room, or Crisis Program
Part of living with someone who has schizophrenia means being prepared for emergencies. If a crisis occurs involving your loved one with schizophrenia, make sure you have the following items and information on hand to take to an emergency facility:
A photo ID with your loved one's name and place of residence.
Your loved one's Social Security card or Social Security number.
Your loved one's Medicaid or Medicare card, and/or other proof of health insurance coverage.
A brown bag with your loved one's medication vials or a list of all the medications (psychiatric and other) she takes, including names and dosages.
A list of any adverse side effects to medication your loved one has experienced in the past.
Information about known allergies or physical health problems.
Names and contact information for your loved one's psychiatrist, case manager, and any other clinicians or programs involved in his outpatient care.
The names and phone numbers of any friends or relatives your loved one would want contacted.
A letter signed by your loved one providing permission for clinical staff to discuss his care with family or friends he designates. (The hospital may have a form available for this purpose.)
Make sure your loved one doesn't bring any valuables (cash, jewelry, and so on); some hospitals will allow him to keep his cellphone. Also, make sure he doesn't bring any knives, belts, or other things that might be considered dangerous and be taken away.
Questions to Ask a New Psychiatrist
When searching for a psychiatrist for a loved one with schizophrenia, choose carefully. The psychiatrist is key to the management of your loved one's schizophrenia, so you need to find out some essential information before the initial meeting with the doctor. Ask the psychiatrist the following questions:
How much do you charge per visit?
Do you accept my loved one's insurance?
Do you have a sliding scale (reduced fees for low-income individuals without insurance)?
What are your hours and what emergency coverage do you have off-hours?
How much experience do you have treating people with schizophrenia?
Optional: Do you have experience treating people who abuse drugs or alcohol?
What is your orientation? Will you be emphasizing medication management? Supportive therapy focused on problem solving? Helping my loved one learn new thinking skills?
What are your policies regarding communicating with friends or family members?
After your loved one has met with the psychiatrist for an evaluation, ask the following questions:
What's my loved one's diagnosis? What will you be treating her for?
What will my loved one's plan of treatment be?
What medication(s) will you prescribe? What are their potential risks or side effects?
What are the risks if my loved one is not treated?
How will you coordinate my loved one's care with other health and mental-health providers?
Ways to Remember to Take Medication for Schizophrenia
To help control the symptoms of schizophrenia, taking medication regularly is important. Remind loved ones who have schizophrenia to take prescribed medication as directed at the same time every day. These tips can help:
Associate taking medication with a daily routine (brushing her teeth or eating breakfast, for example) or a visual cue (for example, a kitchen counter).
Use a divided pill container to help your loved one keep track of her medicines.
Make sure that your loved one's doctor explains — and you and your loved one understand — the reason she's taking each medication and the risks of not taking them. If your loved one knows why she's taking the medication, she may be more likely to stay on track with her medications.
Ask your loved one's psychiatrist to minimize the number of daily doses whenever practical. (Short-acting drugs may require more doses.)