The Lifecycle of Trauma: How Trauma Impacts Older Adults

Recently I attended the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) conference where the agenda focused on a variety of topics specific to Adult Protective Services (APS). Here at The Center for Community Solutions we have focused a lot of work this year on APS in Ohio, working on two separate pieces that highlighted APS statewide and a comparison of APS in seven different counties.

Although all of the sessions I attended at the conference were useful, two specific workshops, Trauma & Victims of Elder Abuse, stood out to me as providing an entirely new way of thinking about two separate topics (APS and trauma). I have focused a lot of my work this year at Community Solutions around these two topics. Trauma is known to have a lasting effect on a person's health -- in what ways can it affect older adults? Find out here Click To Tweet

Trauma is known to have lasting effects on an individual’s health.

Trauma, as described by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”[1] It is common for individuals to experience at least one of these types of experiences over the course of their lives.

Previously, we here at Community Solutions have highlighted trauma as it is explained through Adverse Childhood Experience’s (ACEs) and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics. Two models, used to not only explain trauma, but inform the work of practitioners who treat individuals who have experienced trauma.

What this session allowed me to examine separately is traumatic life events that are specific to older adults:[2]

  • Retirement
  • Loss of spouse
  • Health and medical challenges
  • Loss of lifestyle
  • Death of other loved ones/friends
  • Concerns for adult children and grandchildren
  • Worsening of long standing mental health/addiction issues
  • Addiction from long term maladaptive coping skills for depression, anxiety and insomnia
  • Elder Abuse

Trauma is known to have lasting effects on an individual’s health. Oftentimes trauma can be masked by symptoms which are often seen in individuals who need APS, such as:

  • Major Depression Disorder
  • Substance Related Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Hoarding

Understanding trauma and the residual impact that it may have on an individual’s life can broaden the treatment a person receives to address root conditions. Providing trauma- informed care can contribute to a better quality of life for people as they reach their later years, and may even allow an individual to remain in the setting of their choosing for a longer period of time.

Oftentimes trauma can be masked by symptoms which are often seen in individuals who need APS.

Here at Community Solutions we’ve started examining the role ACEs have on an individual’s quality of life, and overall health, in a larger context. We will continue to dive into what impact trauma has on both our specific priority areas and, look at the overall impact ACEs and trauma have on an individual’s life and their overall health, safety and wellbeing.

[1] SAMHSA. Trauma and Violence. May 7, 2018.

[2] Lee Hyer, Psychological Treatment of Older Adults.New York, New York: Spring Publishing Company. 2014.