On Thursday September 22, I will be giving a half-day workshop starting at 9:15am at the Jewish Family Service in Elizabeth, NJ. This workshop is an in-service for the staff of the JFS and invited guests.
The workshop will focus on trauma-informed care of elderly trauma survivors as a particularly vulnerable patient population facing higher risk of dehumanization and infrahumanization in their treatment by healthcare providers. The presentation will discuss recent findings from social neuroscience regarding processes of dehumanized perception of others, and their implications for the treatment of elderly patients.
Dehumanized perceptions are not necessarily conscious, nor necessarily malevolently motivated. Rather, rapid and automated processes of social categorization that occur outside awareness may lead to emotional biases and subtle discrimination, even among individuals who do not consciously endorse such behavior and who are committed to helping others. The presentation will address specific factors which may lead to the dehumanized perception of elderly people, of service users and patients whose appearance and behavior are compromised by the effects of aging and illness. In addition, the attitudes of aging victims of trauma towards care providers will be discussed as another source of potential dehumanization in this relationship. Some common trauma-related effects on the attitudes of trauma survivors towards others might include suspiciousness and mistrustfulness, excessive neediness, entitlement, expressions of xenophobia and a general abrasiveness. Such factors might foster distancing and reduce empathy toward the clients in their service providers, and thus lead to unintentional re-traumatization of those who suffered from inhumane atrocities in their earlier years. Understanding the causes, correlates and consequences of dehumanizing perceptions as they are elucidated by the neuroscience of social cognitions can greatly influence how specific, pragmatic interventions are tailored to reverse emotional discrimination in the treatment of elderly trauma survivor patients.