(Adapted from VA’s “PTSD: The National Center for PTSD”)
There has been little research done that looks at treatment for PTSD in older adults versus younger people. We do know that PTSD, like many other disorders, can affect older individuals differently than it affects younger adults.
When dealing with trauma-focused treatments, older adults may develop increased anxiety and confusion. As it may be more difficult for older adults to benefit from therapies when confusion is present, presenting materials in a variety of formats and focusing on one topic at a time may be helpful. It may also help to include caregivers in the treatment plan as they often play a critical role by reinforcing information presented in therapy sessions.
Medications used to treat older adults may take longer to work, including those drugs prescribed to treat PTSD. Side effects may be more pronounced in older adults too, so dosages may have to be adjusted over time. And, because older adults are often taking medications for other disorders, physicians should monitor any confusion to determine whether it is related to drug interactions.
PTSD in older adults may need a bit of a different approach for treatment purposes than is required with younger adults. What limited evidence there is at this time does support that PTSD treatments are effective for older adults.
I have a good friend who is a veteran and copes with PTSD every day. He avoids getting into any kind of situation where there might be a crowd. He is often depressed and keeps to himself when his wife would like him to do things with her. The flashbacks are the worst though as he relives the horror of his wartime experiences again and again. I was surprised then to learn that he was refusing to go to the VA or anywhere else for treatment of his PTSD. When I questioned him as to why he wouldn’t try to get some help, he told me it wasn’t something he wanted to take the time to do or to put the effort into. His final stance was that since it was his problem, he’d deal with it.
While it may ultimately be his problem, it does not affect just him. It also tears at his family, hurting his wife and children as they try to cope with “his” problem. The kids are disappointed because dad won’t go with them to any of the community events they attend. They have told me they’d love to go to a football game with their father or even be able to have friends sleep over once in a while, but that can’t happen because Dad might “blow up” in front of them. His wife would like to go out to dinner or a movie with her husband, but he tells her to go by herself. It makes her sad that he won’t go along, but worse is the fear that he’ll hurt her or their children when he’s having a flashback.
If you have PTSD, it does not affect just you. It touches every person in the family and often friends as well. If you won’t leave the house, how can you go to functions with your spouse and children? If you yell at the kids in front of their friends, then why would they bring anyone home with them? PTSD is not just your problem. It can and does respond to treatment, so please, if you won’t do it for yourself, get some help for your family’s sake. Don’t think for one minute that it’s your problem alone.