What providers agree on is the fact that in order to successfully care for individuals with trauma, every one of the staff must be on board to help the resident succeed.

“If the entire interdisciplinary team is not aware of and involved in the biopsychosocial care of the resident with PTSD, success will always be elusive,” says Richard Juman, PsyD, national director of psychological services at TeamHealth.

That’s because so much of the overall well-being of any resident depends on the team’s ability to provide person-centered care that is informed by an accurate understanding of the resident’s personality, history, and diagnoses, he says.

Karl Steinberg, MD, CMD, a long term care geriatrician in Oceanside, Calif., agrees. “Everyone on the interdisciplinary team should be able to provide compassionate care to trauma survivors, and all clinical and direct care personnel should be comfortable talking about it,” he says.

Other staff play a part too. “Even nonclinical staff like housekeeping and laundry personnel should be sensitive to the special needs of this resident population,” he says. “Slamming a door or entering a room without politely knocking beforehand can startle and retraumatize these residents.” 

To Annette Wenzler, chief nursing executive of Signature HealthCARE-Hometown, the nursing staff’s role is paramount. “All long term and post-acute caregivers are responsible for ‘treating’ residents with trauma,” she says. “And ‘treating’ is not only just through medical or mental health licensed practitioners, but the entire staff,” she says. Caring for such individuals is to understand each one of them as a person.

Indeed, from a foundation of trust, says Wenzler, comes relationships, and that’s where staff can meet residents at their place of need. “The nursing assistants, assisting residents with their basic needs every day, 24 hours each day, have the greatest impact in ‘treating’ these persons,” she says.