Part II- Trauma and Aging

Dr. Kori Novak

     In the second of this three-part series, we are going to look at how trauma informed care is executed…or not. Initially we looked at what trauma is, and really defined it as anything that causes suffering, pain or negative human emotions.  That’s to say, it’s a huge array of everything.  Your trauma is not necessarily my trauma.  Instead, it is the WAY that trauma manifests in an individual’s life that matters.  So how can that affect the health and well-being of a person?  Well, we can do a whole other blog on just that topic. Instead of following that rabbit trail, let’s skip to how we use TIC in healthcare, and acknowledge that the traumas are going to be there.

     For most healthcare organizations, it is difficult to determine every individual’s trauma and treat them appropriately.  And not everyone NEEDS specific treatments.  But let’s take the example of a woman who prefers female physicians.  Perhaps she just prefers them, perhaps her preference is based on religious reasons, perhaps she was abused or raped.  These three examples provide a multitude of different scenarios and determining which one is appropriate is difficult, or is it?  The fact is, part of treating patients who have been traumatized (which is everyone), is really just listening to them.  Picking up on the social, verbal and physical cues that they are giving.  Physical cues are obvious to most healthcare professionals, but the verbal and social/mental cues may not be.  Taking the time to look and listen to the whole person is important.  In doing so, healthcare professionals can help make their patients more comfortable, more open to sharing their medical issues and ultimately treating them in a way as not to exacerbate their traumas.

     Once they have listened and understood the concerns, it is important that healthcare professionals document in the patient chart some of the psycho-social and emotional issues they may have discovered, but sharing this in the cart, other professionals can treat the patient appropriately, socially, emotionally, mentally and physically.  Just as important as it is for multiple physicians to know what medications or treatments a patient is receiving, it is also important to know what other issues they may have that affect their care.

     This becomes more important as we age.  Treating elders should not be just about treating symptoms, diseases and the physical self.  Research has shown that as we age, we become more self aware. For many elders, behavioral and mental aspects of their lives become a direct correlation to how they are physically.  More and more, trauma informed care, particularly in the elder population is about treating the 'whole' patient. 

     For patients and their families, sharing traumas with your physicians may be tough for many reasons.  But it is important, not necessarily to tell your whole life story during the first appointment, but to share what is important to you, both in a physical and mental/emotional/well-being sense.  The better the physician and their staff now you, the better care you will receive.  Tell them about traumas not only helps them treat you on a social and emotional level better, but a physical one as well!

     In the final installment of this series, we will talk about how, as a patient, to receive TIC and as a practitioner, how to make sure you and your colleagues are providing TIC to your patients in the best manner possible.  

Kori Novak
Author: Kori Novak
I'm a girl who's blessed beyond measure, travelled beyond dreams & been loved beyond understanding.
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