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Shelley Rood Wernick, MBA
Managing Director, Center on Aging and Trauma
Barbara Bedney, PhD, MSW
Director of research and evaluation, Center on Aging and Trauma

According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, 90 percent of adults in the United States have been exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

Think of how many in your community might have gone through a natural disaster just in the time they have been residents there—and then consider the years before they moved in. Other traumatizing events include domestic violence (affecting an estimated 10 million Americans annually) or being a victim of a violent crime (an estimated 1.2 million).

Trauma exposure not only is associated with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but it is also associated with physical health problems—and, of particular importance to senior living, with cognitive health.

Yet the effects of trauma on older adults and aging is little studied or researched. That’s where the Center on Aging and Trauma, a project of the Holocaust Survivor Initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America and its Person-Centered Trauma-Informed care approach is helping.

Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Care (PCTI) is defined as a “holistic approach to service delivery that promotes trust, dignity, strength, and empowerment of all individuals by incorporating knowledge about trauma into agency programs, policies, and procedures.”

In 2015, the Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded The Jewish Federations of North America a grant to develop innovative person-centered trauma-informed care approaches for Holocaust survivors and their family caregivers.

In September 2020, ACL granted the Center $5 million to expand their work; the lessons learned from helping Holocaust survivors could benefit all older adults. The Center has funded more than 200 projects across 21 states, including programs that teach caregivers about PCTI approaches.

Their website, agingandtrauma.org, has factsheets and more information.

Authoring many of the materials are Shelley Rood Wernick, MBA, managing director, and Barbara Bedney, PhD, MSW, director of research and evaluation. They shared some basics for senior living leaders to think about as they increase their awareness of aging and trauma. While most in senior living practice person-centered care, the “trauma-informed” part of the phrase and what it entails means may be new.

Read more from Senior Living Executive

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