Who’s Responsible

When it comes to “treating” residents with trauma, medical or mental health licensed practitioners play an obvious role, but all care staff in long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) are responsible, providers say. Caring for such individuals is to understand each one of them as a person, says Annette Wenzler, chief nursing executive of Signature HealthCARE-Hometown. “It is about building relationships, building trust, meeting them at their place of need, and educating staff, residents and families.” 

Wenzler says that certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and others, assisting patients and residents with their basic needs every day, 24 hours each day, have the greatest impact in “treating” these persons.

As part of her role, Wenzler oversees clinical operations of the 57 centers that fall under the provider’s Hometown designation in rural areas. She says Signature has dedicated care staff on site at every facility addressing the needs of residents with trauma. We also have other teams in specialized areas to help—social services, licensed psychiatry, psychology, physicians, physician extenders, and nurses,” she says.

In addition, the provider has a chief behavioral health officer who also serves as the chief operating officer of Serenity HealthCARE, an affiliate of Signature that specializes in resident behavioral needs. “Our facilities have a consulting behavioral health expert at their fingertips,” says Wenzler.

The Power of Choice

Honoring residents’ choices can be a gateway to healing traumas of the past. “We aim to avoid re-victimization of the person, and thus it is very important that we allow and focus on the choices of the individual in the hopes of fostering an ability to heal and to understand each resident’s life experiences,” says Wenzler. 

To keep residents’ healing top of mind, a policy can help, says Wenzler. “A simple but inclusive set of policies that assist, direct, and educate staff in providing care with regards to behavioral health is a must,” she says. 

Such policies should include direction on how to understand and recognize signs of unmet needs and ability to identify “triggers” based upon interview, observation and life history. “Turning these fundamentals in to a guide for those delivering resident care with some simple but meaningful interventions, other than medications, will prevent further stress to residents, and also to staff,” says Wenzler.

Read the April 2018 cover story​.