Managing Schizophrenia

Open communication is key to managing schizophrenia

(ARA) – We all know the importance of talking openly with our loved ones – being able to clearly communicate helps everyone understand each other better. It’s sensible that those principles of clear communication should extend to someone who might hold your life in their hands – your doctors and other healthcare professionals.  For people who are caregivers, it becomes even more important to act as the eyes and ears of loved ones who may not be able to communicate effectively.

Patients with schizophrenia may have difficulty communicating with others, which can be challenging for their caregivers, doctors and the other healthcare professionals caring for them. For the medical community and those with schizophrenia, the challenges of working together are numerous. There is a recognized need to develop open communication – a therapeutic alliance – among healthcare professionals, caregivers and patients.

Signs of schizophrenia usually start in late adolescence or early adulthood to about age 30, which can be in the prime of one’s life. The 29-year-old son of radio personality and actress Randye Kaye is one of many young people whose life was changed forever by this illness.

Kaye’s son Ben began showing initial symptoms in his teens; his gradual descent into the illness was marked by erratic behavior and hospitalizations. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20. In her efforts to help Ben find the best way to manage his illness, Kaye learned just how essential it is to create open lines of communication with healthcare professionals.

Kaye chronicles the experiences she shared with Ben in her memoir “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope.” “I hope it will resonate with all families who are dealing with mental illness, professionals who want a better understanding of what happens to the family between office visits, and people with schizophrenia who hope to reestablish a relationship with their families and friends,” Kaye says. “When mental illness hits, it happens to the whole family – and it is the family’s strength and love that can help everyone move forward.”

Kaye and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to raise awareness of the need to build a strong therapeutic alliance with healthcare professionals in order to find the right treatment plan for a loved one with schizophrenia. In addition to the family members of the patient, there are a number of healthcare professionals who work with the family, from physicians and nurses to social workers. There is not just a single line of communication that needs to be opened – there are many.

The end goal is developing the right treatment plan that is tailored to fit individual patient needs – no case of schizophrenia is the same, and no family is the same. All appropriate avenues of treatment should be evaluated to achieve the best possible outcomes. During the process, it’s essential that caregivers supply healthcare professionals with as much information as possible. Finding the right treatment approach can take time, and caregivers need to work with healthcare professionals to determine if treatment is working and if their loved one is tolerating therapy.  At the same time, it’s necessary to establish a relationship in which caregivers and patients feel comfortable approaching healthcare professionals to ask questions, seek advice or start a discussion.

For Kaye, forging a strong therapeutic alliance with the healthcare professionals who cared for her son was critical to finding the right treatment plan for him. For all patients and families living with schizophrenia, open communication with healthcare professionals – and each other – is essential to achieving the best possible treatment results.

Bergen County Doctors