Fostering post-traumatic growth in long-term care

The COVID-19 pandemic has been taxing for virtually everyone in long-term care, from the C-suite to direct care providers. I’ve written about my own experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after working in a pandemic epicenter earlier in the year.

While crises often have short- and long-term negative effects, psychologists have found that there also can be opportunities for positive change.

I looked at the concept of post-traumatic growth with the hope of identifying some aspects that could be fostered in LTC leaders, workers and perhaps the field in general.

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is frequently confused with “resilience,” or the ability to “bounce back” from troubles. Instead, PTG refers to the changes that take place when an individual has difficulty bouncing back, goes through a psychological struggle and ultimately comes through this period with a changed outlook on life.

On a systemic level, I’d like to think that the country is going through a reckoning regarding how it finances and cares for frail elders that will result in significant improvements.

On an individual level, while many people adjust relatively quickly to stressors such as those from the pandemic, others need more time to recover. It can be helpful for supervisors, coworkers and those in the middle of the struggle to know that with time things will get better, especially with support.

To aid workers, organizations can make use of the suggestions I outlined in “Contending with employees’ pandemic-related stress.” Trauma-informed counseling, if needed, can help people get back on track in terms of reducing symptoms and resuming daily functioning.

Once the initial trauma is addressed, a focus on post-traumatic growth seeks to help people “develop new principles for living that involve altruistic behavior, having a mission in life and purpose that goes beyond oneself, so that trauma is transformed into something that’s useful not only for oneself but for others.”

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