Helping a Senior with PTSD Get through the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is a celebration that is eagerly anticipated by many families throughout the United States each summer. People plan for big cookouts and block parties with neighbors and friends, dress in red, white, and blue to honor the nation, and then gather at night to witness the exuberant displays of fireworks that occur all over. While this seems like an exciting and fun way to spend quality time with your aging parent this summer, if they are suffering from PTSD, it may be more frightening and anxiety-producing than fun.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition in which the mind does not fully recover from traumatic events, causing it to react strongly to memories of that event weeks, months, or even years later. This can cause anxiety, depression, intense fear, flashbacks, and other serious emotional and physical reactions. For combat veterans, the Fourth of July and all of its revelry can be an extremely challenging time.
It is important to remember that these fireworks are put off as a reminder of, quite literally, “the rockets’ red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air” that have such a prominent place in the National Anthem. While this is a stirring reminder for any patriotic American, for someone who has seen combat, the sight, sound, and smell can be painful and frightening. Respecting this can help your loved one to enjoy the holiday without the difficult responses of the PTSD.
Use these tips to help a senior with PTSD get through the Fourth of July:
- Make them aware. For many people it is the element of surprise that causes the most intense PTSD response. Research fireworks displays that will occur in the area so that your parent can be as prepared as possible to handle them. Because there is no way to predict if neighbors will set off fireworks or if there will be unadvertised displays, the best option may be to attend a display. This will isolate the fireworks so that your parent can anticipate them better.
- Use coping mechanisms. Seeing the fireworks may be difficult for your parent, but they still might enjoy it and want to spend quality time with the family. Implementing coping mechanisms can make this easier and more comfortable for them. Try having noise-cancelling headphones available to reduce the volume of the fireworks. Playing patriotic music through headphones can also keep your parent more focused on the current moment while also reducing the impact of the noise.
- Still honor them. Just because your parent is dealing with PTSD does not mean that they do not want any mention of the Fourth of July. As a veteran this is still an important day for them and they should be honored. Talk to them about what activities would be most comfortable for them. They may want to visit a daytime patriotic concert and a war memorial, and then head home for a cookout and quiet evening inside. They may also want to attend a large celebration. Let them guide your plans and have backup measures in place to handle issues if they arise.
Starting an elder care relationship for your aging parent with PTSD can be a compassionate and meaningful choice. This elderly home care services provider can be there for your parent to create a customized course of care and assistance that encourages independence, activity, and engagement in the world around them, while also addressing all of their needs and keeping them safe, healthy, and comfortable as they age in place.