Financial trauma, PTSD in older employees: recognizing the signs and solutions
Discover valuable insights and practical tips to promote senior employees’ financial and overall well-being
As the economy becomes more unpredictable, more and more older employees are experiencing stress and anxiety around their financial security. This stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including depression, panic attacks and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of financial trauma are often misinterpreted or ignored, leading to further consequences for older workers.
Symptoms to look for
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, individuals who experience financial stress are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems. This stress can become a serious issue as people age, leading to a decline in physical, mental and cognitive abilities. For older employees, this stress can easily transform into traumatic stress that impacts their day-to-day lives.
The stress of financial insecurity can cause a cascade of effects that can have a greater impact on an older worker’s life. For example, people in financial distress often have difficulty sleeping or maintaining healthy relationships, which can lead to work-related problems. In addition, physical health can suffer as individuals with financial stress turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like overeating or smoking.
For some individuals, financial trauma can lead to PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD symptoms can often develop after a traumatic event, such as job loss, home foreclosure or loss of retirement savings. PTSD symptoms may include flashbacks, emotional numbness, avoidance of triggers and increased anxiety. These symptoms can significantly decrease quality of life and make everyday decisions difficult.
Experts say that recognizing the symptoms of financial trauma in older employees is essential for managers and colleagues to provide support. Signs of financial trauma include irritability, difficulty focusing and decreased productivity at work. Older employees may also exhibit increased absenteeism or lateness and may be less willing to participate in team activities.
Employers and managers should take measures to help alleviate the financial stress of their employees. This may include offering financial education or training initiatives to encourage workers to save for retirement or manage their finances better. Companies may also consider career counseling services or flexible work arrangements to help employees manage their workload and reduce financial burdens.
For many individuals, health insurance is critical to their financial stability and overall well-being. As a result, any instability or uncertainty related to insurance coverage can lead to significant stress and anxiety. In particular, older employees may be more vulnerable to issues related to health insurance. As they age, they may require more medical care and rely more heavily on their insurance coverage. For individuals who are on the verge of retirement or who have already retired, changes to health insurance, like moving from employer or private-pay coverage to Medicaid, can significantly impact their financial security.
Moreover, as healthcare costs continue to rise, many individuals struggle to afford necessary medical care, even with insurance coverage. This can be especially challenging for older employees who may be on a fixed income or have limited savings. Overall, issues with health insurance can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for older workers and can contribute to overall economy-related trauma. Employers and policymakers should work to ensure that health insurance coverage is stable and affordable for all individuals, especially as the workforce continues to age.
The cognitive aging process can also impact people’s ability to manage their finances effectively. As people age, they may experience memory loss, difficulty with decision-making, and other cognitive challenges that can make it hard to keep track of bills, manage investments and navigate financial decisions.
Additionally, cognitive decline can increase vulnerability to scams and fraud, resulting in significant financial losses. Scammers frequently target older adults, knowing they may be more susceptible to manipulation due to cognitive challenges or a desire to maintain financial independence. Victims of scams can quickly experience significant financial losses, leading to financial stress and insecurity.
Even if an older employee does not experience cognitive decline personally, they may be responsible for caring for a loved one who is coping with cognitive challenges. This can require additional expenses related to medical care, support services, and other related costs.
Ultimately, cognitive decline can be a source of financial trauma for older employees. Employers should be aware of the potential cognitive limitations of their older employees and consider offering additional resources and support to help them manage their finances effectively. This might include training and education on financial planning and decision-making, offering assistance with bill paying and other financial tasks, and providing resources to help prevent scams and fraud. By proactively addressing the economic challenges that come with cognitive decline, employers can help older employees feel more secure and supported in their work and personal lives.
Losing a spouse can also contribute to economy-related trauma in older employees. The loss of a spouse can be a devastating experience, and a person must also contend with the financial and economic ramifications. If the surviving spouse relied on their spouse’s pension or social security benefits, they might suddenly find themselves dealing with financial insecurity. Unexpected medical expenses and funeral costs can place a heavy strain on a person’s finances, compounding the stress and anxiety they may already feel from the loss of their partner.
Older employees who have lost a spouse may also have to adjust their work schedules or even retire earlier than planned, which can lead to further financial insecurity. They may have to reduce their work hours to care for children or grandchildren or retire earlier than planned to address health issues. These changes to work status can quickly impact an individual’s financial situation.
Employers and support networks should work to provide resources to help individuals cope with the loss of a partner and address the financial challenges they may face. This can include grief counseling and financial planning services, as well as flexible work arrangements that help accommodate the emotional and financial difficulties that come with such a loss.
Help them help themselves
For older employees dealing with financial trauma, it is important to seek support and help. Offer them support with resources both in and out of the workplace. In addition to counseling and support at work, they may find that talking to family members or a trusted therapist can be beneficial in processing emotions and finding healthy coping mechanisms. Support groups or counseling services can also provide an environment where individuals can share their experiences and connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
In the end, recognizing the signs of financial trauma in older employees is crucial for their overall success and well-being. Employers should take measures to provide support and help employees manage their finances. Older workers who are experiencing stress related to the economy should seek help to prevent the symptoms of trauma from getting worse. With proper support and care, older employees can thrive in the workplace and in their personal lives, even in the face of financial uncertainty.
Michelle Strickland is the community coordinator for Aging.com.