Tonya Brown: Caregiving for Someone with Schizophrenia


Tonya Brown is a caregiver for her aunt, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia approximately 5 years ago.  Previously, her aunt worked as a home attendant but is currently unemployed.  Immediately following the diagnosis, Tonya was relieved to have an explanation for what was going on.  However, some fear began to set in as she saw how the disorder was portrayed in movies and television.  

 

Part 27 | Blood Pressure Readings

Tonya talks about her excitement when her blood pressure readings showed signs of improvement at a recent doctor appointment.

About Tonya Brown

I am a caregiver for my aunt, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 4 or 5 years ago.  Previously, she worked as a house attendant but is currently unemployed.
 
My aunt's diagnosis provided me with some relief at first, as it explained some of the things that were going on with her.  However, I became more and more afraid as I began to see how schizophrenia is portrayed in films and television shows.
 
I rely on my friends and websites that have reliable information in order to learn as much as I can about the disorder, and provide my aunt with proper care.
 

Learn more about the 360 interview series.

 

Previous Chapters:

 

Part 1 | My Aunt's Diagnosis

Tonya Brown talks about being a caregiver for her aunt, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 4 or 5 years ago. Initially, the diagnosis came as a relief, but she became scared as she saw how the disorder was portrayed in movies and on television.

 

Part 2 | Medications and Misconceptions

Tonya compares her aunt's behavior when she is on her medication versus when she skips a dose. The meds seem to make her sociable and genuine. However, missing a dose can cause her to shut down and drop out of a conversation at random. Also, Tonya addresses the stigma that schizophrenia carries with it, and encourages people to look beyond labels in order to find the "heart" of an individual.

 

Part 3 | Going Through Changes

Tonya talks about the fear she felt for the changes that her aunt's personality would undergo. She went from being outgoing and bubbly to withdrawn and reluctant to trust others.

 

Part 4 | Uncovering the Truth

Tonya talks about the process that led to her aunt's diagnosis, which required extensive research and working closely with their doctor.

 

Part 5 | Hypothesizing and Testing

Tonya describes the process of working with the doctor in an effort to diagnose her aunt. This involved discussing her symptoms, as well as cognitive testing on a computer.

 

Part 6 | Preconceptions and Clarity

Tonya talks about her initial shame of her aunt's diagnosis because of the misconceptions about the disorder. As her understanding of schizophrenia increased, she began to share some of the details of her aunt's situation with friends and neighbors.

 

Part 7 | Life After Diagnosis

Tonya talks about her aunt's daily routine following the diagnosis, and how her caregiving team makes sure she stays compliant with the treatment plan.

 

Part 8 | The Ups and Downs

Tonya talks about the ups and downs of her aunt's mental states and behavior. Much of this is a result of her ability to comply with her medication regimen and meal plan.

 

Part 9 | The Reality of Schizophrenia

Tonya explains the physical symptoms that her aunt displays, including confusion and being disoriented. Also, she stresses that just because someone has been diagnosed with schizophrenia does not mean that they are a different person altogether.

 

Part 10 | Opening Up to Cope

Tonya talks about how her aunt copes with her condition, which involves opening up to friends either online or in her community.

 

Part 11 | Knowledge and Understanding

Tonya talks about her aunt's behavioral changes and stresses the importance of patience and understanding for caregivers. Also, she says research is a useful tool for good caregiving.

 

 

Part 12 | Finding Time for Yourself

Tonya talks about a key aspect of caregiving: finding time for yourself. To avoid burnout, caregivers should take vacations and have open lines of communication with family/friends.

 

Part 13 | Research Is Key

Tonya emphasizes the power of research, and how it helped her discover that the dosage of her aunt's medication should be reduced.

 

Part 14 | Prescriptions and Repitition

Tonya talks about her aunt's medication regimen, as well as the logistics of staying on top of her appointments and insurance coverage.

 

Part 15 | Medical Advice and Appreciation

Tonya expresses her appreciation for the existence of medications that allow people such as her aunt to cope with their illness. Also, she stresses the importance of communication between doctors and proposes some ideas to help patients stay on top of their medication regimen.

 

Part 16 | Growing Acceptance and Awareness

Tonya talks about how her aunt gradually became more comfortable helping others understand her condition.

 

Part 17 | Something Was Wrong

Tonya recounts a troubling psychotic episode her aunt experienced that included screaming and hallucinations.

 

Part 18 | Treating an Outburst

Tonya talks about how her and a group of EMTs calmed down her aunt during an outburst. They realized her behavior was the result of a medication issue and quickly adjusted the dosage.

 

Part 19 | Preparing for the Future

Tonya talks about how she thinks pharmaceutical companies should make more of an effort to properly educate patients and caregivers about the potential adverse effects of their medications. Also, she expresses concern about the future of her mother's mental health.

 

Part 20 | Coping with Other Symptoms

Tonya talks about some of the signs of dementia that her mother exhibits, such as short-term memory loss. Her mother readily admits that she is suffering from Parkinson's disease, but denies any suggestions that she may be developing dementia.

 

Part 21 | Self-Diagnosing

Tonya talks about how her mother diagnosed herself with Parkinson's disease after experiencing symptoms that she recognized from her time as a nurse. Tonya was skeptical and had her see a doctor- the diagnosis was confirmed.

 

Part 22 | Parkinson's Diagnosis

Tonya talks about the aftermath of her mother's diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. She lost her job due to physical limitations and lost a great deal of weight from the medication regimen.

 

Part 23 | Brotherly Love

Tonya talks about being in denial regarding her mother's Parkinson's diagnosis, but her family eventually convinced her to accept the truth. Also, she relates how her brothers take their mother to appointments since they are strong enough to physically support her.

 

Part 24 | Finding Common Ground

Tonya talks about when she found out that her friend's mother had also been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. She wishes she would have known sooner so that they could have spent more time helping one another.

 

Part 25 | Difficulty with Acceptance

Tonya talks about how difficult it is for her and the rest of her family to see their mother suffer a debilitating illness. Her brother, who was particularly close with his mother, has had an especially tough time.

 

Part 26 | The Stress of Caregiving

Tonya talks about how the stress of caregiving for her mother has taken a toll on her health. Shortly after taking on the role of caregiver, she experienced high blood pressure for the first time in her life. Recently, it has started to recede closer to healthy levels.

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