Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Post-traumatic stress response to life-threatening illnesses in children and their parents

Publication year
Stuber, M. L.; Shemesh, E.

Symptoms of PTSD have been reported in response to a variety of life-threatening medical illnesses and injuries in adults and children. Emerging data suggest that children often experience medical treatment and hospitalization as traumatic, putting caregivers and medical personnel in the role of the unintended accomplice. Adequate pain control by pharmacologic and behavioral means; child and family psychological support using evidence-based CBT, dynamic psychotherapy, and other techniques; and meticulous attention to communication via a team-based approach are the cornerstones of pediatric palliative care in general and PTSD prevention and treatment in particular. Emerging evidence suggests that PTSD in life-limiting pediatric illness can be ameliorated, if not prevented, and treated when it occurs, contributing materially to the quality of life of a child and family. A landmark finding of PTSD research with medically ill children and their families is that parents are at least as symptomatic, or more, as their children, underlining the importance of a family-directed approach addressing every family member. Pediatric caregivers increasingly recognize their therapeutic role when curative therapy is no longer possible is as pivotal as in the setting of acute illness.

Research abstracts