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posttraumatic amnesiaAbbreviation: PTA
Symptoms include restlessness, moaning or crying out, uninhibited behavior (often sexual or angry), hallucinations (often paranoid), lack of continuous memory, confabulation, combative behavior, confused language, disorientation, perseveration, and sleep disturbances. Problem-solving ability, reasoning, and carrying out planned motor movements (as in activities of daily living) may also be impaired.
The patient is continually reoriented by a large calendar and clock within sight; each interaction with the patient begins with a repetition of who is in attendance, why the attendant is present, and what activity is planned; and the patient is kept safe and comfortable and is allowed as much freedom of movement as possible.
As the patient becomes confused, he may show agitation. Health care professionals can limit agitation and confusion by speaking softly in simple phrases, using gestures as necessary, and allowing time for the patient to respond. Regular visits from family are important; the family should be prepared for the patient's appearance and behavior; they should be encouraged to help the patient with activities of daily living.
Equipment for agitated patients is used; wrist restraints are avoided if possible. Urinary catheters may increase agitation due to physical discomfort (incontinence briefs can be used during the training period of a toileting program). The patient's swallowing function is evaluated as soon as possible to avoid feeding tubes, but swallowing precautions are observed. A list of stimulations that increase or decrease the patient's agitation is posted for the use of everyone in contact with the patient. Distance is maintained during aggressive outbursts. The patient's personal space should not be invaded without warning (e.g., the patient should be told in advance that his body parts are going to be touched or washed). The patient should be approached from the front, and items should be placed where the patient can best see them.
Health care professionals should watch closely for impulsive movement that can jeopardize the patient. They should warn others that the patient cannot monitor his own behavior and that words and actions may occur without awareness or forethought. Independent behavior and self-care are encouraged. The patient is engaged in short activities with a motor component. One action at a time should be monitored if the patient performs several actions that interfere with treatment. To promote abstract reasoning, humor should be used if the patient understands it. A consistent daily schedule provides structure. The patient is taught to use compensatory cues (a watch or written activity schedule) to aid memory. The patient is also assessed for posttraumatic headache, which is treated with prescribed medications.