As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who fought and died while serving our country, we also think about those who have survived combat and are living with the consequences that affect their mental health.
You are likely familiar with the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD), which we often associate with military veterans who have served during wartime. But there are many other traumatic events that occur over the course of a person’s life that can also lead to PTSD, such as the death of family members, natural disasters, abuse and abandonment. A person who had not previously shown signs of PTSD can begin to show signs later in life. For your older patients who have dementia, past trauma may affect how they respond to an acute care environment. Learning about a patient’s past trauma(s) and understanding how they can impact a person’s behavior during stressful situations (such as being in a hospital), can help you better respond to these behaviors in a compassionate and effective way.
If your patient is exhibiting behaviors such as agitation, resisting hands-on care, shouting, hiding, etc. and you are having trouble determining the cause (remember to use the DICE model), consider speaking to the patient’s family members to learn if there were possible past traumas that may be leading to these behaviors. For example, was the person hospitalized when they were younger for something and returning to the hospital may bringing up traumatic memories? Perhaps being away from friends and family is bringing up fears of abandonment, and even memories of the social isolation they felt during COVID-19?
Below is a link to a brief article with more information about trauma informed care:
Have a great week!