Q: A few weeks ago, while trying to avoid a deer, I swerved wildly and just missed a head-on collision with another car. I ended up in a ditch, unhurt but shaken. Since then I can't sleep more than a few hours at a time. I get flashbacks and break into sweats. Sometimes during the day, just walking to the soda machine at work, I have to stop to catch my breath. What's happening? -- Andrew F., Darien Conn.
A: You don't have to be a wounded Iraqi warrior to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that sounds like what you are describing. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event involving the threat of injury or death is a candidate. PTSD is called a disorder because it changes -- disorders -- how certain hormones and brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, carry information and respond to stress. Not everyone who has a similar experience will react the same way; whether you develop PTSD depends on your genetic predispositions, your social situation (isolation makes it harder to process the event) and your physical health going into the trauma.
This is a physical condition, so don't be ashamed and don't try to shrug off the feelings. We urge you to see a specialist -- the sooner you get properly diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and regain control of your life and your relationships with those around you. The good news is that therapy, which may mean medications, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling therapy (specific to your experience), or a combination of all three, really does work. You won't feel better overnight, but you will learn how to cope with the memory of what happened and take back control of your life.
Without prompt treatment, symptoms can get more intense and harder to handle. But with treatment, you can begin to get rid of chronic sleep deprivation and stress, and avoid a cascade of related health problems, from high blood pressure and heart disease to diabetes and depression.
Q: My 75-year-old widowed mother is going to have hip replacement surgery, and my sister and I want her to have 24/7 at-home care. We've heard the horror stories from friends about their experiences with such services, so what's the best way to go about this? -- Desmond R., Riverside, Calif.
A: The usual hospital stay for a hip replacement is 3.3 days before going home (or to rehab). And the major risk after hip surgery is a clot (embolism) in a leg vein that migrates to the lungs. So, the first thing you want to do is work with her surgeon to determine the level of care and expertise she will need during those first days or weeks at home.
Then you want to work with an agency or service that provides your required level of trained, licensed home-health-care workers.
Also, find out how the business screens (does it perform criminal background checks?), qualifies and trains employees. Then ask the agency for references, such as doctors, nurses and customers. This also is the right time to ask about insurance and Medicare coverage.
When you interview potential hires, you need to be specific about what you'll expect them to do: bathroom protocol, bathing, medications, physical therapy/activity, cooking, etc. The more clearly the job responsibilities are defined, the happier everyone will be.
Once a home-health-care worker passes your "this seems like a good person" test and starts helping your mom, the first day or two is really an audition. The person has to get along (your mom gets the thumbs-up/thumbs-down vote!), and you have to be satisfied with the care. Then you can all relax, and Mom can heal. If she was generally healthy before the surgery, she'll be coming over for dinner with the grandkids before you know it.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.