Through recent research studies, it is clear that PTSD is a factor in the lives of parents, especially mothers, raising children with disabilities. For example, we know that moms raising children with Autism have stress hormone levels consistent with those of combat veterans (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders). We know that NICU stays can produce PTSD in new parents, especially new mothers. We know of a longitudinal study in Western Australia which found that mothers of children with an intellectual disability were 150 more likely to die of cardiovascular disease. Further, the PLOS One paper found, the same mothers were 200 percent more likely to die from “misadventure” — death resulting from homicide, suicide, or accident.
Dr. Katherine Junger, a clinical psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who works with patients with epilepsy and their families, sums the effect up: “Caregivers of children with complex medical conditions face a 4-fold increase in risk for PTSD compared to the general population.” However, Dr. Junger says, “most of the research on PTSD in caregivers has been done in parents of children who had cancer.” As a result, she explains that very little is known about PTSD in caregivers of children with life-long medical and developmental complexities that have led to long-term repeated life-threatening experiences, like those facing a number of Dr. Junger’s epilepsy patients.
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