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Post-traumatic stress can hit anyone

Updated: June 17, 2012 8:05AM

Q. A few weeks ago, while trying to avoid a deer, I swerved wildly and just missed a head-on collision with another car. I ended up in a ditch, unhurt but shaken. Since then I can’t sleep more than a few hours at a time. I get flashbacks and break into sweats. What’s happening?

A. You don’t have to be a wounded Iraqi warrior to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that sounds like what you are describing. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event involving the threat of injury or death is a candidate. PTSD is called a disorder because it changes how certain hormones and brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, carry information and respond to stress. Not everyone who has a similar experience will react the same way; whether you develop PTSD depends on your genetic predispositions, your social situation (isolation makes it harder to process the event) and your physical health going into the trauma.

This is a physical condition, so don’t be ashamed and don’t try to shrug it off. We urge you to see a specialist — the sooner you get properly diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and regain control of your life.

Q. My 75-year-old widowed mother is going to have hip replacement surgery, and my sister and I want her to have 24/7 at-home care. What’s the best way to go about this?

A. The usual hospital stay for a hip replacement is 3.3 days before going home (or to rehab). And the major risk after hip surgery is a clot (embolism) in a leg vein that migrates to the lungs. So, the first thing you want to do is work with her surgeon to determine the level of care and expertise she will need.

Work with an agency or service that provides your required level of trained, licensed home-health-care workers. The business providing those workers should itself be licensed, regulated, inspected and/or certified. Find out how the business screens, qualifies and trains employees. Then ask the agency for references, such as doctors, nurses and customers. This also is the right time to ask about insurance and Medicare coverage.

When you interview potential hires, you need to be specific about what you’ll expect them to do: bathroom protocol, bathing, medications, physical therapy/activity, cooking, answering the phone, etc. The more clearly the job responsibilities are defined, the happier everyone will be.

Once a home-health-care worker passes your “this seems like a good person” test and starts helping your mom, the first day or two is really an audition. The person has to get along with your mom, and you have to be satisfied with the care. King Features

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