Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Help with schizophrenic Aunt


#1

I recently found out that my cousins and Uncle were told by their family therapist, my Aunt may need to go to a nursing home. My Aunt has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. My Uncle has power of attorney for her, however he doesn’t want her to be institutionalized. According to the family these are the issues,
She takes her meds except for a thyroid med she says makes her sick. (She takes meds on her own)
She won’t go anywhere.
She wears her coat all the time even when it’s hot
Doesn’t cook meals
Thinks there’s spirits in the house
2 years ago she went to grocery store and didn’t come back.
My Uncle ended up going to get her in South Dakota , they live in northern Iowa! She thinks she was,in prison where they didn’t feed her, let her have coffee, or even a stick of gum.
She told me this and I thought she was joking, until he confirmed it was true.
She then started singing an Elvis song and told me his ghost helps her sing better.
She’s supposed to exercise,
My Uncle says the only exercise she will do is jumping around and dancing. (She hurt her shoulder therefore an aide comes in to help her bathe and do light housework 3 times a week)

Her behaviors are in my opinion alarming if she is indeed taking her meds.

I suggested they talk to the family therapist that my two cousins and Uncle see. They did this and decided to have the aide come in and talk to her about taking the thyroid meds and let her know that if she didn’t start taking the med she may have to go to a nursing home. She’s now taking the med. However, I still feel that there are things my Uncle and cousins could do to help and other help that they could get for her.
One issue they’ve had is her changing or cancelling Dr appointments and then not telling anyone. I suggested that the contact person be my Uncle or one of my cousins take the home phone off the paperwork. The therapist suggested him not telling her about appointments so she can’t change them.

The medical issues with her have been ongoing for as long as I remember, singing at Christmas when no-one else was and the ambulance coming to get her, I was maybe 6 then. Afterwards she would be in the hospital, we’d all go clean the house and then she’d come home again. I found out as an adult she had been in a mental hospital.

I feel like my Uncle and cousins are not asking the questions that need asked or being proactive in her treatment. I asked what drugs she took and they had no idea. She is not made to keep appointments or go the the therapist. Since I am new to this am I wrong to be alarmed with what is going on? I am planning on going to visit next week do I let it go and just visit or try to help? She’s not happy and I think very sick. I’m worried


#2

You are not wrong to be alarmed. Perhaps the family is so used to her behavior that it does not really matter to them anymore.
As far as helping your aunt look into the mental health division of the state that she lives in.My son had excellent care at our countys mental illness hospital and it was no cost to us. Look into IHSS for a home careprovider to help your aunt. I am my son’s care provider and the state pays me to care for him. There are options out there and perhaps you can have your aunt sign papers to allow you to be part of her healthcare. Then you can make her appointments for her and even go into the doctors with her to learn more about her condition and medications.
Good luck. Schizophrenia is a hard illness and the family does go through a lot. Education and support groups are great aides to help you


#3

Thank you for replying, I appreciate your ideas.


#4

Hello, It’s good you care about your aunt and your family. From what you wrote, it sounds like she has some strange behaviors that may not be harmful to her or anyone else. Reading that list, the only item I found alarming was the running away.

I think it might be good to find out what your aunt and her family perceive as their needs and see if you can join the team. Once you are helping out, then maybe you will receive more information and be able to understand their choices. Maybe you could help your aunt get exercise since that is one of the stated needs.

My opinion is that people with any illness should have as much choice about their lives as possible so long as they are safe and receiving needed care. Where does your aunt want to live? There are doctors’ appointments, an aide. I like your idea of someone taking over her appointment schedule.

I like cfromm’s idea of education and support for you and the rest of the family. This site and many others have information about psychotic disorders. There are many people whose recoveries are not complete from an outsider perspective, but who are living good lives alongside the symptoms. With these illnesses, there are a variety of outcomes.


#5

I find it alarming. What you you describe is someone who is very ill and suffering. It sounds to me though that her immediate family is probably just worn out. It is possible that her illness is very hard to control. She may be medication resistant, at this point. Why don’t you ask them if they have thought about any of the ideas you just suggested and see if they’ve ever thought about doing them, and why or why not. It’s possible they have already tried some of those things and they haven’t worked. It could be that she’d mellowed out, and her behavior now is less alarming than before. You never know. I would suggest you talk to them about it, and then ask if they’d like your help. Living with that sort of thing is very tiring. They may just not have the energy anymore.