Thursday, June 9, 2016

Plan Ahead with a PTSD Alert Signal

Let’s talk about PTSD and triggers – and a way to communicate ahead of a full-blown anxiety situation.  As you become more familiar with what causes situations to move toward a negative situation, or a rising sense of foreboding, you’ll likely learn what triggers set off you or your family member.  Yes, it’s important to include you in this equation, since many caregivers also have accumulated symptoms of secondary PTS, and the resultant hypervigilance, mood changes, effects of insomnia, and stress.

Working together as a team, a family can learn to mitigate certain situations, such as crowds, loud and volatile situations, including family holiday dinners.  Creating a non-verbal signal puts you and your family member in charge of alerting one another.  Keep it simple, a tap on your wrist, a hand signal or perfect the Let’s-Get-Out-of-Here-Soon glance.  Demonstrating that you understand your family member (or you) are feeling rising anxiety, stress, or discomfort with the situation is helpful and allows you to more gracefully depart most situations promptly.  What a relief to avoid gutting out every difficult occasion! 

Recently, I heard a wonderful follow-up to this trigger signal by a smart and thoughtful caregiver named Lauren.  After these signals are given, departure is complete, when the next quiet moment comes, she and her husband engage in a short discussion.  Either one asks: First, are YOU okay?  Second, is the Situation okay now? And, Third and most important, Are WE okay?  This is a strong team effort that is kind and intuitive.

Take time this week to create your own PTS Alert Signal, practice it until the all feel united and comfortable, then consider asking those three key questions to keep the calm channels of communication open and willing. 

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

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