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My Schizophrenic Sister Refuses Treatment



p>My sister has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She is in her mid 40’s and has three children. We convince her to seek medical attention about a year ago, but after four consultations she has decided that her doctor and everyone else for that matter “is in on it”. She doesn’t trust anyone and thinks people are “out to get her”. I am worried about alot of things for starters her children, how is this affecting them? How can they possibly cope with it living under the same roof as her when she constantly hears voices and sees people that are not there. Her youngest is seven years old, I don’t know what all this has possilby done to her because my sister swears all her children have been abused my these imagenary people she sees. We(my mother and I) tried speaking to her doctor to see if we could try to understand her and her conditon, but the doctor told us that he could not say anything to us because of patient /doctor privacy. My whole family feels helpless and frustrated that we can’t help her and her children becuase as long as she can provide for her family there’s nothing that we can do. We tried to get her medical attention even when she did’t want it, but no one was willing to help. They said being crazy is not a crime and until she’s willing or she can’t provide for her children anymore, then they would step in. Meanwhile we just have to watch her get worse. I’m also a mother myself and know that this mental condition is genetic and I’m terrified of the possibilites. What can family members do? When it’s so obvious everyone around her is worried sick for her and her family.

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p>You are not alone in your situation. Many many families have struggled with similar issues relating to a parents (or sibling’s) compentency to meet important responsibilities. It is heartbreaking, I know, but it is also complicated from a social and civil liberty standpoint. Your sister’s right as an adult to govern her own life does need to be preserved as well as it can be, becuase to make special exceptions for her would jepordize everyone’s civil liberties. The “authorities” should not be able to force medication or hospitialization on people without cause, for instance. The flip side of the equasion is that it takes a long while and some serious and sometimes dangerous accidents before authorities are able to document that something is deeply wrong, and then take appropriate action. Typically, it takes police reports or abuse reports before appropriate action gets taken. Even then, authorities generally do not rush to take away parental rights, but rather work to try to stabilize the (then) patients so that they can function independently to the best of their abilities. Conservatorship and extended mandated hospitalization do occur, but more rarely today than in the past.
It may seem “criminal” to let your sister’s “negligence” go unchecked, but try to see it from the other side of things. It would also be criminal if a judge took away your own children (or forced you to receive treatment) on a false or flimsy pretext.


p>Under the circumstance, you would appear to have several options. You could try to convince your sister to let you take care of her children, although this sounds like a hard sell. You could work on her to continue in treatment, and/or hospitalize herself, alhtough based on your prior experiences with her paranoia, this sounds like a non-starter. You could call child protective services and/or the police when you suspect abuse or neglect is occuring and help build up the public record necessary for involuntary treatment to be mandated. You could sit back, live and let live and practice your relaxation techniques to stay calm. Option #3 might be the most direct route to what you want, but not everyone would be comfortable with that sort of thing.


p>Schizoprenia is partially inherited genetically; it does run in families. This means that you may carry the genetic predispositions yourself (even if they are not expressed), and may have passed them on to your own children. Your sister’s children are also at heightened risk for developing the illness. Fortunately, not everyone who has some genetic risk for Schizophrenia will develop the disease. Though the risks are heightened, they are still relatively small. The typical onset for Schizohprenia occurs in young adulthood (e.g., middle to late teens, early twenties), so your children should be educated about the disease and its symptoms prior to that time.


p>At risk people can maybe do a few things to protect themselves, but nothing I say here is definitive. One thing would be to stay away from marijuana products and other hallucinogens. There is some suggestion that vulnerable people who use these drugs heighten their already heightened risk. Another would be to be educated and watchful for the signs of schizophrenia, and to consult with a psychiatrist at the earliest possible occurance to try to head off the possibility of a full psychotic episode. Of course, leading a healthy lifestyle is always a good idea (healthy exercise, food, sleep, etc.), but doing this well won’t necessarily lower your schizophrenia risk.

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists

  • desperate mom

    My son is schitzophrenic and has been for 22 years. I am afraid of him and he has increasingly threatend both myself and his father with violence. He says he is going to kill my husband with a butcher knife or his bare hands and has attempted to harm us on several occasions. Of course this only happends when he is not on meds. He is hospitalized an average of every 2 months. He says that he will kill me but does not say how. He says I will have to wait and see what he will do to me. I am exhausted, scared for our lives, financialy stressed from supporting him, my reputation is ruined, my career in shambles becuase of his activities and I don't know what to do. Some people in the community know that he is not well and don't believe the terrible things he says however many others do. At times I just want him out of my life. Please help us with some advice. I love my son. I cannot take much more. What can I say to him to make him take his meds. Do I just abandon him to his own demise? He is our only child. Who will look after him when we are gone? He is 40 years old now. Help please. Thanks in advance desperate mom

  • C terry-Hardie

    OMG I feel your pain so much You will always be the person between the devil and the deepblue sea to your son .. He wants to trust you and hurt you at the same time in your eyes. He believes he is No 1 .. He tells you this. Love him is all you can do. It is a grotesqe illness. But it is an illness (f*ck them off that don't understand)...... Your son was not born to hate.. Forgive yourselves you are not the cause of this unfortunate illness. Love and forgive yourself and your son
    ....Cindy ann Terry-Hardie

  • Anonymous-1

    Try to convince your son to go to psychotherapy (talk therapy) many schizophrenics have benefited from psychotherapeutic approaches even though most psychiatrists will tell they need to just take their medication. Psychiatric drugging is not the answer antipsychotic drugs have very serious side effects such as

    diabetes (more than triples your risk)

    excessive weight gain (leads to obesity)

    tardive dykinesia, and tardive dystonia (uncontrolled muscle movements, caused from long-term used)

    lowered life expectancy

    impaired cognitive function (result of antipsychotics induced brain damage)

    Just asked any psychiatrists about these dangerous effects of antipsychotics he's forced to tell you. antipsychotics have generated the damaging effects to a person physical health as well as

    Antipsychotic drugs "works" similar the barbaric pyschiatric procedure called a lobotomy. Antipsychotic drugs "works" by causing malfunctions in the brain and brain damage so severe that a person can't fully experience schizophrenic symptoms like auditory hallucination, catatonia, other any higher mental functions. they're act like a chemical straight jacket making the person for more compliant that's why psychiatrists in hospitals love antipsychotics the schizophrenics are more easy to manage

    Antipsychotics have generated some of the worst damaging effects to physical health as well as mental health of millions.

    I know you get these skinny physically/semi-physically healthly schizophrenics and after years of taking antipsychotics they have become obesed, diabetic, walking zombies.

    Best thing to do don't challenge his delusions create a lifestyle adjustment that conducive to the safety of your son and yourself. Unfortunately there is no preventive treatment for schizophrenia unless you subscribe to the brain-damaging drugs like thorazine, seroquel, zyprexa, risperdal etc. Fortunately schizophrenics adventurely come back to reality over the years.

  • Linda Baron Katz

    My sister too is suffering from an acute psychosis. She thinks people are after her, probably hears voices and feels that every body is lying to her and is out to get her like some conspiracy and therefore trusts no one including me, her own sister. Both my parents are dead, and I am the only family member that she has. They left us an apartment that is still under my parents names. My sister has another apartment that she owns in the same building and it is a co-op. My cousin is the executor of the estate. He has to probate the will. My sister thinks he already probated the will and we keep telling her that we didn't. Our only option is to go to the courts. I hired an attorney for the estate. Before Passover, she was admitted by her doctor to a psychiatric hospital involuntarily. For two months, they tried to engage her but were unsuccessful and they let her go any way. My cousin thinks we should live and leave things as they are and forget about the apartment for now. It has been over two years now since my father died and sometimes I am not sure what to do and get very scared of the unknown of how she will react when it comes with the courts. I also have a mental illness and in recovery for a long time. However, she is not listening to no one. I have consulted lawyers, psychiatrists, therapists and nobody can help her because she will not admit to herself that she has a mental illness. They all said to do the probate at least. Can anyone give me advice?


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