Feb 03 2014

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Dealing with Post-Disaster Stress

Since September’s flood, I’ve learned about many family caregivers who were impacted by the disaster. One
woman was living with her elderly mother, who has Alzheimer’s, when the flood hit. She and her mom rushed to evacuate as water poured into their home, and they’ve been unable to return because of the damage. The flood was stressful for all of us, but it’s hard to imagine the additional stress felt by family caregivers, like this one, whose elder care recipients were affected.

I hope caregivers will recognize that the flood has added to their already-high levels of stress, and
will turn to community resources for emotional support. Mental Health Partners has set up drop-in centers that are offering up to three free visits for persons emotionally affected by the disaster. (Call 720-415-9740 to learn more.) Caregivers may also look to friends and family for extra help, visit with a private counselor, attend a caregiver support group, or learn about other resources for assistance.

It’s important to recognize the reactions to disaster, which may include difficulty concentrating or remembering, recurring nightmares, feeling numb or disconnected, disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns, persistent physical symptoms (such as headaches or digestive problems), tearing up frequently, having bursts of anger or being especially irritable, or avoiding reminders of the event. Everyone reacts differently, and one person’s reactions may vary from day to day—or even from hour to hour.

Events like the flood can threaten our sense of control and safety and may affect many aspects of our
lives. But finding ways to deal with the emotional aftermath of the disaster can help us reclaim a sense
of security—even when we’re caregivers.

Emily Cooper is Information and Assistance Specialist for Caregiver Programs with Boulder County Area
Agency on Aging. For information on BCAAA caregiver services, call 303-678-6116 or email Emily at Email Emily.

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