Part III Trauma and Aging

In this final installment of the three-part blog on trauma informed care, we are going to consider why trauma informed care seems to be underutilized in our current healthcare system. We will also consider how we might increase the quality of care for our loved ones by using it, and encouraging caregivers and healthcare providers to use it as well.

            The greatest generation has seen more wars than any other generation, living or gone.  Beginning with World War I, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, throughout their lifetime these individuals have experienced more loss and various forms of grief than any in our current time. We know that these types of losses can affect every part of our life, whether we decide to face them or bury them away to deal with ‘later’. Keeping this in mind it is difficult to understand why we don’t practice trauma informed care.  Understanding the difficulties that elders have endured during their lifetime and treating them accordingly is a concept that shouldn’t be difficult, and yet we rarely see it in practice.  Why?  Well, in my opinion there are a few reasons. 

            One of the most obvious is that many of these individuals are very private about their past pain. This is the ‘stiff upper lip’ generation.  They tend not to talk about their experiences or don’t think that these traumatic experiences affected them.  In these cases, it is important for family and friends to help guide health or care professionals by sharing stories and insights into their loved ones life and assuring that their needs, if they are specific are understood.   

            Another reason TIC is not used is that this is not something that is taught in any formal way in medical or nursing school, or any type of health care education.  While it is used more in behavioral health and in other industries such as law enforcement, general health care doesn’t teach practitioners about it.  But it really should be simple, it’s about having empathy for patients.  One way or another patients will let their caregivers know what is acceptable and what is not, the question is, do they have to suffer additional trauma before we figure it out. 

            Finally, one of the reasons TIC is often not practiced is because it takes time.  This is often time that physicians don’t have, not because they don’t’ care, but often because they have to move to the next patient in order to stay on track for the day.  There are many reasons for this, but that is another blog.  The bottom line is that physicians simply do not often have the time to spend getting to know or understand the traumas their patients may have experienced in order to treat them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming physicians at all for this issue.  It is simply how our health care system works right now. 

            I don’t have a perfect answer for the question at hand, but as the concept of trauma informed care continues to grow, so do the opportunities for our older loved ones. For more information about trauma informed care you can get more information from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors at http://www.nasmhpd.org/content/national-center-trauma-informed-care-nctic-0

Or at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at

http://www.samhsa.gov/samhsaNewsLetter/Volume_22_Number_2/trauma_tip/guiding_principles.html

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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