Mass trauma demands special training

Aged care staff need training to appropriately care for older survivors of genocide and mass trauma, a new report has found.

By Yasmin Noone

The aged care sector must recognise that older survivors of genocide and mass trauma are a distinct needs group and therefore train staff to provide appropriate care.

A recent La Trobe University report, Caring for Older Survivors of Genocide or Mass Trauma, advocates that aged care staff are not adequately equipped to care for an older person who has experienced a traumatic event.

La Trobe University project investigator, Karen Teshuva, said that as time goes on, more and more Holocaust survivors and members of the Cambodian community who experienced acts of genocide are either entering aged care facilities or are in receipt of aged care services.

“The point of the study was to say that we know there is a problem,” Ms Teshuva said. “The interaction between aged care workers and older survivors was known to be in many cases, less than adequate.

“It’s one thing to understand how trauma impacts on a person’s life but once they reach older age and their trauma is combined with functional decline, then there is a cumulative effect.”

This effect, she said, can result in an older person perceiving that the care received is inadequate, while the carer may also experience a less than ideal work situation because they do not fully understand the older person they are caring for.

“Expressions that aged care workers use to refer to these clients are less than complementary but often that comes from a lack of understanding.

“There needs to be training in the area of interpersonal relationships between carers and clients. If aged care workers aren’t adequately trained to deal with these particular clients, they may not receive quality care.

“…The issue for aged care workers is that they may experience a lower job satisfaction if they are working with people that they don’t understand.

“There are aged care staff who understand the issues without being trained, while others need to be taught. Generally speaking though, people do need training to do the job and if they are not trained [about this issue] then the quality of care will not be appropriate.”

Ms Teshuva stressed the difference between mass trauma training and cultural competency training.

“There’s obviously cultural issues interwoven in the whole area but there are people form all walks of life and from all sorts of cultures who are trauma survivors and I don’t think [that this issue] is the domain of cultural competency. It’s the domain of all of aged care.”

The report proposed that training, ideally, should focus on assisting aged care staff “to learn about and implement the ‘trauma-sensitive, person-centred care’ approach”.

It also advised that training sessions be delivered by training professionals with backgrounds in counselling or psychology, in an interactive, face-to-face format with a focus on discussion and problem-based learning activities.

“Such qualifications are desirable because of the sensitive nature of some the material covered in the training and the potential for some training participants to have experienced some form of trauma in their own lives in the past,” the report said.

The report was the result of a two-year project carried out by the university’s Australian Institute for Primary Care in conjunction with Jewish Care and the Aged Care Branch of the Victorian Government Department of Health.

Tags: aged-care, caring-for-older-survivors-of-genocide-or-mass-trauma, community-care, la-trobe-university,

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