When you're a parent of an ill or injured child, there's no end to the questions or concerns that run through your head.
"My son's still in pain, even with medication. My daughter can't sleep because she keeps having nightmares. Tommy's not acting like himself anymore since the bike accident. Marie isn't talking much even since the diabetes diagnosis. Rosa's so clingy since her brother's hospitalization. My child seems okay, but I can't get past what happened."
Parents / caregivers may not always voice these questions and concerns to their child's doctors and nurses. With the exception of pain management, many caregivers might not realize symptoms could be related to their child's injury or illness. Medical traumatic stress, similar to the more familiar post traumatic stress (PTSD), occurs after a medical event, such as an injury, illness, or procedure, and includes symptoms of reliving what happened (re-experiencing), staying away from reminders (avoidance), feeling anxious or jumpy (hyper-arousal), being easily upset or angry, being irritable or uncooperative, and/or feeling empty or numb. In the weeks immediately following a medical event, these types of reactions are common and normal. These reactions become troublesome for the child, parent and healthcare team when they last more than a few weeks with no improvement, are very overwhelming for the child/parent, and interfere with adherence to treatment or otherwise interfere with recovery.
As a healthcare provider, following the DEF Protocol to provide trauma informed care can help you gauge how your patients are coping with their injury or illness. Some will need support of a mental health professional. Many will not. Most, if not all, will benefit from basic support and information, as is found on the newly revised Parent and Child section of HealthcareToolbox. This new section addresses the questions and concerns many parents and children experience after an injury or illness and helps them determine when they may want to seek out additional help from a professional.