OBJECTIVE: To study the needs of outpatients suffering from
schizophrenia and their primary caregivers.
METHODS: A qualitative descriptive design was selected to
study the needs of a non-probability purposive sample of 50
outpatients with schizophrenia and their primary caregivers.
Data were collected on their compliance-related needs as well
as psychosocial and aftercare treatment needs.
RESULTS: Compliance needs: Eighty-three per cent of the
participants supported their medication treatment and
aftercare, but needed more information on the illness than they
had received or had managed to gather.
PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS: Participants had difficulty in accepting
the illness and in understanding its consequences for their
everyday functioning. Ninety-seven per cent of patients were
aware that their illness had affected the health of their primary
caregiver. The majority of participants had lost friendships
since the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Eighty-eight of the
primary caregivers supported the patient financially, despite
the fact that many were over 60 years of age.
AFTERCARE TREATMENT NEEDS: A strong need was expressed for
services such as day-care centres, workshops, and psychoeducational
and social work services.
CONCLUSIONS: As South African health policy is moving towards
de-institutionalisation and treating mental health as part
of primary care, support must be improved for sufferers of
schizophrenia and their primary caregivers. Many people are
prepared to face up to the challenge of caring for a mentally
ill family member, yet are faced with significant needs that
should be addressed.