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Housing options for people with schizophrenia

Treatment for schizophrenia cannot succeed if your family member doesn’t have a stable, supportive place to live. But finding the right living situation for a person with schizophrenia can be challenging. When considering housing options, think about the individual needs of the person with schizophrenia:

  • Can your family member care for himself or herself?
  • How much support does he or she need with daily activities?
  • Does your family member have a drug or alcohol problem?
  • How much treatment supervision does he or she require?

Living with family

For many families, the most difficult choice involves whether or not the relative with schizophrenia should live at home. Living with family can be a good option for people with schizophrenia if their family members understand the illness well, have a strong support system of their own and are willing and able to provide whatever assistance is needed. At-home arrangements are less likely to be successful if the person with schizophrenia uses drugs or alcohol, resists taking medication or is aggressive or uncooperative.

Choosing the Right Housing Option for a Person with Schizophrenia

Living with family works best if:

  • The person with schizophrenia functions at a fairly high level, has friendships and is involved in activities outside the home.
  • The interaction among family members is relaxed.
  • The person with schizophrenia intends to take advantage of available support services.
  • The living situation does not negatively impact the lives of any young children in the home.

Living with family is not advised if:

  • The main support person is single, ill or elderly.
  • The person with schizophrenia is so ill that there is little or no chance to lead a normal family life.
  • The situation causes stress in the marriage or leaves children in the home feeling frightened and resentful.
  • Most family events and concerns revolve around the person with schizophrenia.
  • Support services are not used or are unavailable.

Adapted from: Schizophrenia: A Handbook For Families, Health Canada

Try not to feel guilty if you are unequipped to house a family member with schizophrenia. If you can’t look after your own needs or those of others in the family while caring for your ill relative, he or she will be better off somewhere else.

Residential options outside the family home

If an at-home living arrangement isn’t the right fit, make contact with local mental health facilities, social service agencies, support groups and public housing authorities. These organizations can help you explore the residential facilities in your community and put your family member’s name on the appropriate waiting lists.

Options in your area may include:

  • Residential treatment facilities or 24-hour care homes – A more structured living environment for those who require greater assistance with medications and daily living tasks or for those going through an acute psychotic episode.

  • Transitional group home — An intensive program that helps individuals transition back into society and avoid relapse after a crisis or hospitalization. Includes skills training and rehabilitation services.

  • Foster or boarding homes – A group living situation for people with schizophrenia who are able to function relatively well on their own. Foster and boarding homes offer a certain degree of independence, while providing meals and other basic necessities.

  • Supervised apartments – An option for those whose condition is less severe or well-managed with medication. Residents live alone or share an apartment, with staff members available on-site to provide assistance and support.

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