Capacity to Help Older Adults with History of Trauma is Growing

Jewish Federations of North America’s Center on Holocaust Survivor Care and Institute on Aging and Trauma published a first-of-its-kind study measuring the capacity of aging service providers to provide person-centered, trauma-informed (PCTI) care to Holocaust survivors, older adults with a history of trauma, and their family caregivers.  The findings of this study will have important implications on ensuring that agencies can offer their clients the care they need and deserve. 

“This study demonstrates how Jewish Federations are transforming care for older adults with a history of trauma,” said Shelley Rood Wernick, Managing Director for the Center on Holocaust Survivor Care and Institute on Aging and Trauma, Jewish Federations of North America. “At the same time, there is a lot of work ahead to build capacity for PCTI care across aging services. We hope the report’s recommendations will provide a roadmap to do that, so older adults and their family caregivers can benefit the most from the organizations that help them.”

Research shows that as many as 90% percent of older adults have been exposed to a traumatic event during their lifetime, and that trauma can affect the health and well-being of adults as they age. Based on the prevalence and impact of trauma, the Jewish Federations defined an innovative approach to service delivery known as PCTI care. This approach infuses knowledge about trauma into agency programs, policies, and procedures to promote the safety and well-being of older adults with a history of trauma and their family caregivers.

Through grants from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, the Jewish Federations has been building national capacity to provide PCTI care. The Center has done so by awarding subgrants to organizations to implement PCTI care, publishing resources for the public to learn about the PCTI care approach, and conducting studies such as this. Based on the responses of almost 200 diverse organizations, the study provides a baseline on the degree to which U.S.-based aging service providers are aware and capable of providing PCTI care.

The findings of the study show that while awareness of PCTI care is growing among aging services providers, there remain significant gaps in PCTI care across organizations and client demographics. Fifty-eight percent of respondents noted that their organization has a deep understanding of the topic of aging and trauma, but only 30% of respondent organizations demonstrated a deep capacity to provide PCTI care to clients.

The study also found disparities between populations that are receiving PCTI care. Among the thirteen demographic groups studied, PCTI care availability is highest for Holocaust survivors, for whom the approach was originally developed. That means there is significant room to expand this important approach for other groups that have a history of trauma, including African American, Native American, LGBTQ+, and refugee older adults. Jewish Federations are working hard to ensure their knowledge and experience working with Holocaust survivors is used to make PCTI care universal for all older adults with a history of trauma.

While there are disparities in care, the benefit of the PCTI care approach is far reaching. Respondents reported that PCTI care in their organization resulted in improved client empowerment, understanding, safety, relationships, feedback, decision-making, peer support, mental health, well-being, service access, physical health, and socialization. Additionally, respondents noted that PCTI care improved service to family caregivers and engaged family caregivers in better service delivery for their loved ones.

Organizations funded by the Center reported higher rates of PCTI care awareness and capacity across all measures when compared to organizations that did not receive Center funding, pointing to the success of the Center and the impact of funding organizations to build their PCTI care capacity.

Based on its findings, the report outlined five recommendations for aging service providers, professionals, and advocates:
  1. Deepen understand about the role of trauma in the aging process of clients.
  2. Learn and raise awareness about the PCTI care model and its relevance to client care.
  3. Increase the capacity for aging service organizations to provide PCTI care to all clients.
  4. Acknowledge and work to overcome disparities in PCTI care. 
  5. Provide dedicated resources for PCTI care so that all areas within an organization have the proper funding, knowledge and skills in order to maximize this approach. Many resources are available – within Jewish Federations as well as other organizations – to train and educate service providers on PCTI care.

Click here for the full report and here for the executive summary. For an infographic summarizing the findings click here.


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