Accidental falls and psychological trauma in older people.
Authors: Adamczewska, N.
Unintentional falls may pose a threat of death or injury to an older person. The psychological burden experienced by older adults after a fall adds to recovery difficulties. Persistent psychological problems post-fall may be related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The limited research on the phenomenon suggested that some older adults develop PTSD after falling. The present research sought to gather data on post-fall trauma in older adults. The aims of this mixed methods study were to explore factors related to PTSD development and the impact of PTSD on older people’s recovery and lives.
Participants in the quantitative study were 119 adults age 60 years or older admitted to one of three general hospitals in Poland. There were 11 individuals who took part in two qualitative interviews – one post-discharge and one post-recovery. PTSD symptoms were reported by 32% of patients. Older age, gender, multiple chronic conditions, injury severity, the length of time spent on the ground waiting for help and falls history were significantly correlated with PTSD symptoms. The qualitative interviews revealed that older adults’ lives were heavily affected they their falls. For some participants, their falls did not impact their lives long-term, yet for several individuals there was a sense of no return to the lives they had previously lived. It affected their perception on their lives, their approach to the recovery, and the strategies they applied in order to cope with their fall- related injuries.
Results may have implications for understanding the psychological burden of falls. This study can be seen as a first step in patient characterisation, and predicts who may benefit from PTSD intervention. Further investigations are needed to assess the proposed factors related to post-fall PTSD, as well as new fall interventions which would target fall patients who are at risk of PTSD development ought to be introduced.