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The persistence of traumatic memories among WWII prisoners of war

Elbaum P, Klama E, Weaver FM, Rintamaki LS. The persistence of traumatic memories among WWII prisoners of war. Paper presented at: International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Annual Meeting; 2004 Nov 1; New Orleans, LA.


Testable Hypothesis: This study involved descriptive data of former World War II (WWII) prisoners of war (POWs) experiences and therefore did not test hypotheses. The goal of this study was to explore long-term psychosocial effects of the POW experience in order to identify types of care and support needed to treat older victims of traumatic experiences.Specific Objectives/Aims: The Former POW Living History Project was designed to record the oral histories of American veterans who were captured during their tours of duty in WWII. To date, 114 veterans who are former prisoners of war have participated in a video recorded interview regarding their experiences as POWs. This effort has been endorsed and supported by VISN 12 leadership. A research component was added to this effort to explore the long-term effects of the POW experience on older veterans, as well as gain insight on how to care for older POWs and other traumatic event survivors. As such, we surveyed participants about their POW experiences and their lives since returning from the war. Relevance to the VA: The Veterans Hospital Administration is the largest single provider of care to World War II former POWs in the United States. This care includes addressing both biomedical and psychosocial needs, including the repercussions of the POW experience. Improved understanding of these veterans' needs is vital to providing them with optimal care. Subject Population: A total of 157 participants (all veterans who were POWs during WWII) were recruited through the Hines VA Hospital, a POW reunion in Orlando, Florida, and the WWII veteran's periodical, 'The QUAN.' Procedures Used: American WWII POWs participated in this study in one of two ways (a) participating in a video-recorded interview on their POW experiences, and/or (b) by completing a mailed survey describing their POW experiences, effects of these experiences on their psychological and physical well-being, and ways in which these experiences shaped major decisions in their lives. All interviewed participants were also sent the mailed survey. Others interested in the study who were unable or unwilling to travel to the Hines for the interview were mailed the survey. The survey packet included a self-addressed, stamped envelope in which the participants placed the survey after its completion, then mailed it back to the researchers. Significance of Potential New Findings: Study findings provide insight on adjustment and life satisfaction issues of former POW's, mental health staff education, and avenues for therapeutic interventions to assist this veteran population. Additionally, these findings may also have implications for other older adults who have experienced traumatic events.

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