Family Emergency Plan
It might be helpful to make an “Emergency Plan” for times when a person with schizophrenia is in crisis and needs to go to the hospital. The purpose of having a plan is to provide an easy-to-get-to resource that contains the information you will need in case of an emergency. Listed below are some tips on what should go into your Emergency Plan, how to get the information, how to develop the workings of the Plan, and some examples.
What is an emergency?
An emergency is a life threatening, or a violent situation that demands an immediate action or response.
How do you know if you are in an emergency?
Listed below are examples of emergency situations. Generally, if someone does or threatens to hurt themselves or anybody else, this is an emergency situation. Get help right away.
Examples of emergencies
What to do in an emergency
Sometimes you may not know that you are in an emergency situation. A psychotic episode can happen gradually over time or happen suddenly. If you are unclear about if your situation is an emergency, or just need help figuring out what to do, try to contact the person’s therapist or doctor for advice. If you cannot get in contact with those people, call (303) 440-5140 Explain your situation to the staff and they will get you help right away.
2. Emergencies involving violence
Sometimes a psychotic episode will involve violence. In such situations, there will be no time to talk calmly to your relative, or to telephone the doctor or psychiatrist to ask for advice. Because your relative is in a changed state of reality, they may try to act out the hallucination for example, shatter a window. He/She may threaten to harm him/herself, to hurt you or to damage property. One mother said that her son kept yelling that God was ordering him to kill her. In such situations, you must do whatever is necessary to protect yourself and others (including the ill person) from physical harm. It may be that the wisest choice is to leave the premises.
In such charged situations, probably your only choice is to phone the police. It may be unwise to drive your relative to the hospital by yourself: do so only if someone else can go with you.
3. The Do’s and Don’ts of an emergency situation
4. What do you want to happen during an emergency?
Families and mental health workers recommend strongly that you have an emergency plan ready for psychotic episodes. Create a back-up plan with people you will call to help, close friends, neighbors, and a peer support person. Have numbers for each of them.
What to do ahead of time to plan for an emergency
Develop an emergency plan
Ask your relative’s doctor or psychiatrist ahead a time which hospital to go to in case of an emergency.
Prepare a psychiatric advance directive. This is a way for the person with mental illness to let the mental health workers know what kind of treatment they do or do not want in an emergency situation.
Have a file or diary of information for paperwork. For example, the information taken from the family and the person with mental illness’s notes describing how the person responded to his/her medications and the warning signs of getting sick again.
Know which family members and friends your relative may trust more than others in an emergency. For example, an involuntary hospital commitment may cause the ill individual to be very distrustful of the person committing him/her to the hospital. Having another trusted relative or concerned person with authority beforehand helps to keep resentment from the ill individual from interfering with getting him/her to the hospital.
Find out whom you can phone for support at any time of the day or night. For example, someone that will sit and listen to your concerns and give suggestions on how to make your relative and you feel better, or a mental health professional that you can call on when you need help making decisions.
Decide the role each person will take in an emergency. For example:
When you get to the hospital
In emergency situations, the family might normally expect their relative to be admitted, if not voluntarily, then involuntarily into the hospital. However, this may not be the case. Your relative may refuse to be admitted, and the doctor may say that your relative does not need to be admitted to the hospital. If you are not able to be at the hospital, it is possible that your relative may be allowed to leave before you are notified. If your relative is admitted, families who have been through the experience recommend strongly that you consider other possible courses of action, including, in some circumstances, leaving your relative on his/her own. Without the alternative of returning to the comfort of home, the hospital may appear to be a safe place to the ill individual, and he/she might be more likely to stay for treatment.
Getting someone to go to the hospital on their own
It is far better, if possible, to have your relative go to the hospital voluntarily. If you do not think your relative will listen to you, see if a friend can talk the person into doing so. Some have found that giving their relative a choice seems to work. “Will you go to the hospital with me, or would you prefer that someone else takes you?” Such a method may serve to take away the person’s feeling of helplessness. Offering choices, no matter how small, provides some sense of being in control of the difficult situation in which they find themselves.