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schizophrenia and memory


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Hi All,

My younger sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I live overseas and found out through my father, who visits her once a week at the group home she has been living at for the past two years. I have not seen my sister for over 10 years; we have never had a close relationship. When my wife and I returned home this summer I suggested to my father that maybe it would be nice to pay a visit to my sister so she could meet my wife and daughter. My father was vehemently against the idea, since he said she would not remember me. In his words, " the past is erased, it's gone, she would not remember you, it is really a bad idea..."

Is this true? Do people with schizophrenia often forget the past (family members). She is 45 years old and had been found outside in the wintertime with no shoes or socks on by the police. Beyond that, my father has not told me much about my sister's illness and treatment; though he has said repeatedly he is very concerned about all the weight she has gained (about 40 kg).

Is this just an issue of shame. When I told my older brother two years ago about my sister's illness it did not register any kind of reaction or response from him. Is this common that family members feel so ashamed that don't wish to even acknowledge the fact that a sibling has an illness?

Any feedback would be appreciated.

Bernie

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Bernie,

I worked with schizophrenic patients and their families for many years in both psychiatric hospitals and partial day programs. I can only give you my opinion because I do not know your father or your sister but the opinion is this:

1. Your father probably is struggling with feelings of shame. Please do not blame him. It is very common with this type of thing and if he is not getting any family therapy from the home then it is too much to expect of him to have a deeper understanding. Keep in mind that your father may be attempting to protect you from seeing her because he fears that her condition may upset you.

2. When people are in the midst of a psychotic or schizophrenic episode(the same thing) they often do not remember what happened during that time period. However, it is unlikely that she would forget her brother, his wife and her past family history.

3. In my opinion, there is no harm in your seeing her. I would suggest that the home let her know that you are in town and coming to see her. It is only fair that no surprises be pulled on her.

After all, people with schizophrenia are just like everyone else. They just happen to have this brain disease through no fault of their own. Believe me, no one volunteers to be this way or makes themselves this way. It was just the hand she was dealt in her life.

So, I would urge you to see her. My educated guess is that she would love a visit. Just do not expect too much because she really is ill.

What do you think and others think?

Allan

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Hi Berniek

I can comment based on my own situation, my father has schophenia and was diagnosed like 15 years ago, at the begining he was not well and was in hospital alot but he is stable now and fully functioning and a big part of my life. He mostly is the same as always some things are different but not more then maybe life alone did not change. I have seen others with the same illness that have more symptoms lingering longer and that are not as stable. I think regardless it does take time to get better just depends on how long its been and what all the symptoms are my dad's meds work well. Memory, I think is as Allan said they don't really remember all of what happened when really sick but after things settle things are the same. I'm sure she would like a visit what sister wouldn't, above all she is family the illness shouldn't turn people away and people shouldn't try to hide it either it really is just one thing, be sensitive but not distant. Anyways just my thoughts please take care

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Allan,

Yes, I am still out there. Apologies for not replying earlier. I appreciate the input from you and nightfalls.

I suppose I knew all along that the illness doesn't affect one's memory in such a permanent way as my father suggests, but just cannot understand why he is so ashamed about his daughter's illness?

Bernie

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Bernie,

Glad you are with us.

Sometimes there is no explanation for a person's behavior and attitude. What is more important for you is that you do not buy into it and just accept your sister. None of this is her fault. We know that Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. It affects people all over the world and its an equal opportunity disease: it afflicts the rich and poor, educated, uneducated, Whites, Spanish, Blacks, Arabs, Chritians, Muslims, Jews, Asians, etc, etc. It simply does not discriminate. As yet, there is no cure but there are medications that somewhat control its symptoms. There are a tragic few who seem resistant to any medication or treatment. Inside, underneath, there is always a real person and that is why visits can be so very important.

Allan

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey Berniek, i can tell you without a doubt, you would be helping your sister should you decide to be a part of her life. I have longed for my brothers to show an interest in my life. my illness is not spoken of. we have no relationship whatsoever. i am simply viewed as a lazy failure. I wish that were all there was too it!LOL I laugh so as not to cry. Love your sister. Be there for her. You both will benefit from it. Good Luck!:o

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