Schizophrenia

Although late-onset Schizophrenia does not happen frequently in seniors, it’s still quite possible. And while it only occurs in about one percent of the population, Schizophrenia is still serious issue. As a caregiver or elderly adult, it is important to be aware of symptoms of schizophrenia and how to treat the disease.

Schizophrenia Symptoms

There are a variety of symptoms to look out for when it comes to late-onset schizophrenia. Most of these will be relatively easy to spot and should be taken seriously. The symptoms include:

  • Delusions: holding something to be true despite clear evidence of it being incorrect (extremely common, appears in 90% of people who suffer from schizophrenia).
    • Delusions of persecution: “They are out to get me.”
    • Delusions of reference: believing that a public message on TV or on a sign is meant specifically for them
    • Delusions of grandeur: believing one has special powers or is someone of extreme importance
    • Delusions of Control: belief that they are under full control from an outside source, “_____ is putting thoughts in my head”
  • Hallucinations: can be a hallucination of any of the senses, but is most commonly auditory hallucinations in the case of schizophrenia. Those suffering from auditory hallucinations tend to hear them more when the person is alone.
  • Disorganized Speech: not staying on topic, using made up words or phrases, unnatural repetition, and meaningless rhyming phrases.
  • Disorganized behavior: schizophrenia is very counterintuitive to goal striving behavior inhibiting the person from completing everyday tasks. Sometimes causing unexplainable emotional outbursts and lack of control over impulses.
  • “Negative Systems”: change or loss of normal behaviors such as expressing emotion, showing interest, and cohesive conversation (monotone, unrelated replies)

Causes of Schizophrenia

Although we do not know specifically what causes schizophrenia, we do know a few factors that come into play when diagnosing the disorder. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • A family history of illness
  • Exposure to toxins or a virus before birth or during infancy
  • Having an inflammatory or autoimmune disease
  • Using mind-altering drugs
  • High stress levels

Diagnoses of Schizophrenia

Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, a complete physical exam and diagnosis will help you identify the proper treatment of the disorder. Unlike most medical issues, a psychiatrist, instead of a practicing physician, diagnoses schizophrenia. At this appointment, you’ll answer questions about your medical history, mental health, and family medical history.

Treatments of Schizophrenia

Most mental health professionals will recommend a combination of medication and therapy to combat schizophrenia. These medications will decrease the symptoms of the disorder, allowing you or your senior to live a normal, happy life. These medications include but are not limited to:

  • Chlorpromazine
  • Fluphenazine
  • Haloperidol
  • Perphenazine

These medication recommendations will usually be coupled with therapy sessions. These sessions will help identify triggers and how to ease the anxiety of schizophrenia using breathing exercises and other remedies. A healthcare professional will be able to gauge whether or not you or your loved one needs a change in medication or dosage.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I care for a senior with schizophrenia?

Caring for an elderly person with schizophrenia can be tough. Try to involve them in structured activities, interpersonal interaction, and routines. Do not directly challenge their false beliefs. Try giving them tasks or homework assignments to help build and retain skills to provide them a sense of empowerment.

Pharmacological agents and psychological therapy will be needed to aid mental health and counteract symptoms.

Elderly with schizophrenia may need more help with daily living (looking after themselves, transportation, taking care of their home, etc.). You may not necessarily be able to reach for a full recovery for the patient, but treating some of the symptoms and making life more meaningful to the patient is possible.

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What causes late-life schizophrenia? Have they always had it?

Though it doesn’t happen that often, schizophrenia can develop later in life. According to a study published by Stanford, whether late or early-life, schizophrenia is thought to have root in maladjustment in early childhood and other biological factors.

However, late-onset schizophrenia patients will experience more visual, tactile and olfactory hallucinations when compared with their early-onset counterparts. Late-onset schizophrenia hallucinations are often much more abusive, as they are hearing offensive hallucinations of insults in a running commentary with themselves. If you or a loved one has developed schizophrenia later in life, take comfort in knowing there are care options available

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