by: Sheri de Grom
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a difficult mental health condition to treat and terrorizing to live with daily.
I’ve written hundreds of pages in my journals, over the years, detailing my own difficulties with PTSD and how the disease could and did stop me in ways nothing ever had before.
The elderly who have had serious falls are now identified as high risk for PTSD. According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, PTSD results increase as the elderly recognizes their independence is in jeopardy.
The most at risk for PTSD are elderly women who live alone and people who are unemployed or less educated. All participants in the study were assessed using the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder scale, which measures 17 symptoms of PTSD.
Stress symptoms related to falling are supposed to lessen, over time, after the fall. At least, that’s what my doctors tell me.
I know from experience that the stress of possibly falling again doesn’t lessen with time. Many of you are aware I’ve sustained multiple Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), and each time I fall, I worry about what shape I’ll be in when I land. It terrifies me. My neurologist tells me, “Any blow to your head could be your last.” I’ve done enough research to know he’s not just trying to scare me into being more careful; he’s telling me the truth and I’m afraid.
I took a serious fall last month at a garden center. Any garden center is one of my favorite places in the world. Spring is here and I’m recreating my gardens.
I’m happier in the garden than anywhere else on earth. This is where I feel the closest to God and my ancestors that have gone before me. I have conversations with you, my fellow bloggers, and might I add, we are brilliant when we are in the garden.
About that fall last month; Tom was with me and witnessed the fall from beginning to end and that provided valuable information to me.
I was on concrete, noting the space around me was free of debris and other hazards. Joy surrounded me as I filled my cart with brilliant blue Delphiniums, fragrant Cloud Honeysuckle Vines, an exquisite Cheyenne Spirit Coneflower Mix, Red Satin Coreopsis, and Russian Sage along with Lavender. I have well over 50 bulbs to plant and about 30 wildflower packets ready to go and much more transplanting before beginning to plant my new bounty.
Tom told me later, “It was worth the trip to see you nonchalant, moving among the flowers, carefree for that moment in time.” Tom continued, “I thought you were happy and living the life you were supposed to be living; gone from your face was worry and that look of impending doom.”
It was indeed a gift to be at the garden center with him. A young man working there found Tom a pleasant place to sit and even ran for a soda for him. They sat chatting while I decided what appealed to me and of course, to Tom as well.
The young man, ever so polite and a wounded warrior, hit it off with Tom and they were
content talking about the rigors of returning to civilian life after being in the midst of ‘Being All You Can Be for Your Country.’ Their conversation was a blessing for the three of us. I didn’t have to worry because Tom was entertained by the young warrior and what fun for me to have freedom to discover endless possibilities for my garden.
Back to the dreaded fall; I can only avoid talking about it for a short time. Tom told me I didn’t seem to lose my center of gravity which is one of my biggest problems and common for TBI survivors. He told me it was as though my right foot collapsed and my body crumbled into itself. The result of my falling on concrete is 2 more cracked ribs and an extremely sore left side.
I’ve never associated my many falls with PTSD due to their direct causal effect from my TBIs. However, fear and falling always walk hand in hand.
My own PTSD doesn’t center on falling, however it causes me to be more cautious than ever before. Falling hurts more each time but I refuse to allow my thoughts to control my activities. I know how devious yet paralyzing PTSD often is.
Someday I’ll share with you some of my journal entries about Tom’s and my PTSD. But,
today, I wanted to say, I now understand how PTSD symptoms develop in the elderly after they’ve sustained a fall. Often you feel yourself going down but don’t understand why or how. The fear of falling again and no one finding you can circle in your head for an eternity.
Coupled with Tom’s PTSD and other mental illness plus his declining health, he falls often. It is my responsibility to make our environment as safe as possible for him. I’m helping myself at the same time.
I’m a firm believer in the safety alert devices now available for individuals. Tom’s is connected to our home alarm system. When I’m successful at getting him to wear it, all he needs to do is push the center button (he can wear around his neck on a cord) and he has two-way communication immediately with emergency personnel. The device is also wired to 911 if something occurs and he needs help wherein law-enforcement is needed immediately. The wearable two-way communication affords me peace of mind when I need to run an errand or even be away from the house for a few hours. This same protection may be activated from any panel within the house.
I’m concerned: the elderly do not have easy access to quality mental health care. Most have never had any type of mental health care and are opposed to receiving any after a fall. Mental health care often means medications are dispensed and the elderly ends up in a nursing home.
Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate your presence and am interested in knowing what you think about the classification of PTSD and the elderly after they sustain a fall.
Until next time, my special friends, your love, support, prayers and check-ins mean the world to me. God works in mysterious way and He never mentioned a word to me about what wonderful friends I would make on my blogging journey.
Next week I will bring you an excerpt from my journal wherein I struggled with my own PTSD. I didn’t know it was PTSD at the time as the symptoms first reared its ugly head as panic attacks.
Your continuing support, love, inspiration and prayers help me move through the day.
Happy spring everyone.