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The Trauma of Aging

     In this three-part eldercare article series, we are going to examine the concept of “Trauma informed care” by looking at what it is, how it relates to us as we age and how healthcare professionals and providers can utilize it to better treat patients. In this first article we will unpack the concept of “trauma” and how it relates to “trauma informed care”.

     Trauma [trou-muh, traw-mah]- From the Greek word meaning “wound”- Pathology-A body wound or shock produced by a sudden injury or violent accident. Psychiatry- an experience that produces psychological injury or pain. Most people know what the word means, but more than that, they know what the word feels like. There is trauma in daily life, but none so much as when we age. We add a special burden to certain ages, like the dreaded "40". It seems like a special wound to hit these magic ages. Of course not everyone experiences this, but we all experience traumas differently. One of the current popular phrases in healthcare is “trauma informed care”. But what is that, and how can it make a difference in the care we provide to elders?

     In this first of the series, we will unpack the concept of trauma. While we may not all have evil queens traumatizing us as children, like in the fairytales, we have all had something that caused us some sort of trauma in our younger years. These experiences don’t just disappear from our lives, in fact for some people they only multiply and/or intensify as we age. Wars, violence, natural disasters and other such things affect our world view. It would seem that the eldercare industry and healthcare system would take these things into account and adjust accordingly. Trauma informed care is just recently becoming something spoken about or acknowledged by some healthcare entities. The concept is simple, learn about your patient, what traumas have they experienced and how might the care you offer affect that person and work the plan of care around that. But while the concept is simple, putting it into practice is not. In the next article in this series, we will look at how trauma informed care is executed…or not, and why it is so slow to catch on in the “healing” professions.