Senior Vets and PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a challenging disorder for both the sufferer and their loved ones. If you have a senior family member who’s dealing with PTSD, it’s important to be supportive and understanding.

Often when we hear of someone living with PTSD, we think of veterans. However, it can develop from any kind of traumatic event, such as a car accident, domestic violence, or a natural disaster.

For seniors, PTSD can be especially difficult to manage. This is because they’re likely dealing with other age-related issues at the same time, such as declining health and cognitive decline. Additionally, many seniors grew up in a time when mental health wasn’t openly discussed, so they may be reluctant to seek help.

Learning more about the signs of PTSD and how to help your loved one manage it can help more than you know.

Identifying PTSD in Seniors

PTSD is a disorder that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. It can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Reliving the trauma through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares;
  • Avoiding people, places, and activities that remind them of the trauma;
  • Feeling constantly on edge and experiencing difficulty sleeping and concentrating;
  • Experiencing negative changes in mood and outlook, such as feeling hopeless, disconnected, and numb.

Some seniors may have all four symptoms, while others may only experience a few. Additionally, the symptoms may come and go, or they may get worse over time.

If you’re concerned that your senior loved one is dealing with PTSD, it’s important to have a conversation with them about it. They may be reluctant to talk about their experiences and feelings, but it’s important to let them know that you’re there for them.

Bear in mind, that while educating yourself on potential red flags can help you identify whether your senior loved one is dealing with PTSD, only a mental health professional can make an official diagnosis.

Helping Your Senior Loved One Manage PTSD

If your senior loved one is dealing with PTSD, there are a few things you can do to help them manage their symptoms:

Encourage them to seek professional help.
As we mentioned, only a mental health professional can diagnose and treat PTSD. If your loved one is reluctant to seek help, try to be understanding and patient. You could offer to go with them to their first appointment or even just help them make the call.

Help them avoid triggers.
If there are certain people, places, or activities that trigger your loved one’s PTSD symptoms, try to help them avoid these as much as possible. This may mean making some lifestyle changes, such as avoiding crowded places if they trigger anxiety.

Encourage healthy coping mechanisms.
It’s also important to encourage your loved one to find healthy ways to cope with their symptoms. This could involve things like exercise, relaxation techniques, and journaling. Of course, consult their medical professional before beginning new physical activities.

Find PTSD support groups.
There are often PTSD support groups available in communities. These can provide valuable social support for your loved one in addition to mental health professional assistance and allow them to connect with others who understand what they’re going through.

Support their independence.
Many seniors with PTSD may feel like they’re not in control of their lives. As much as possible, try to support their independence and give them a sense of control. This could involve things like letting them make decisions about their care or giving them a say in their daily routine.

Above all, it’s important to be patient and understanding. PTSD can be a difficult disorder to manage, but with your support, your loved one can begin to heal. Remember that they may not be able to control their symptoms and that they may have good days and bad days. Just being there for them can make a big difference.