How to Identify PTSD in the Elderly
As most seniors age, they enjoy their retirement years and time for relaxation, but some experience psychiatric and mental health difficulties, like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders). PTSD can emerge or re-emerge later in life as your loved one ages, and their life begins to change drastically – especially with role changes such as retirement, or increased health issues, decreased sensory abilities, reduced income, loss of loved ones, and decreased social support.
PTSD commonly occurs after traumatic experiences, mostly associated with war, but can also occur after natural disasters, accidents, life events, or different forms of abuse such as sexual assault. PTSD can cause your loved one to feel scared after a traumatic event, whether the event just happened or happened many years ago.
Additionally, there are also other stressors that can trigger PTSD in late-life following retirement, such as cognitive impairment, loss of friends and family members, increased health issues, and more. PTSD in older adults is largely linked to psychiatric comorbidities, cognitive functioning, and physical health.
Symptoms of PTSD
There is no evidence indicating that older adults display PTSD symptoms differently than younger adults. That being said, the most common indications of the prevalence of PTSD in older people are:
- Flashbacks or feeling like the events are happening over again
- Trouble sleeping and/or nightmares
- Feeling alone
- Angry outbursts
- Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
Treatment of PTSD
If your loved one is showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, have them discuss mental disorder treatment options with their health care provider. PTSD treatment can include anything from anxiety or depression medication to different types of therapy. Ensure that your loved one is not relying on self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, to cope with their PTSD.
One treatment tactic that has been used for older individuals is psychotherapy, which can be effective in targeting specific post-traumatic stress symptoms like hyperarousal and re-experiencing traumatic events from years ago.
Comfort Keepers Katy Provides Care for Older Veterans
When families need more help looking after their senior loved one, Comfort Keepers® Katy's caregivers are there to help. Our professionally trained caregivers can provide around-the-clock support so that your loved one receives the valuable physical and emotional assistance they need to live a healthy, happy, and independent life. Comfort Keepers has experience providing care for combat veterans with chronic PTSD, as well as older women who are trauma survivors, and can help provide the care that your loved one needs in their old age.
And, for more in-depth information on PTSD in older adults in the United States and mental illness among the geriatric population, visit the website of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry to learn more.
American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients With Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc; 2004: https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/acutestressdisorderptsd.pdf