Compassionate Care Speaks Louder than Words

The Challenge

Following a serious, traumatic car accident, a New York-area Veteran progressively retreated from her family, care providers and others by choosing to selectively speak. Homeless and living in a city shelter, she eventually communicated only though “yes” and “no” cards. In a near-catatonic state, the Veteran’s situation was increasingly grim.

The Fix

A breakthrough came when a nurse practitioner on VA’s Housing First Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team learned that the Veteran felt unsafe living at the shelter. Through diligent and compassionate care, the nurse practitioner gained the Veteran’s trust and opened up more lines of communication. The Veteran revealed that her housing instability left her feeling depressed.

At this discovery, the team sprang into action, successfully processing the Veteran’s request to transfer to an inpatient psychiatric facility. The nurse practitioner guided the inpatient psychiatric team on ways to keep the Veteran engaged and visited her multiple times each week during her stay at the facility.

The Result

After weeks of treatment, the Veteran found her voice again. She no longer needs her word cards, and is fully engaged in treatment. She reconnected with her adult son, a family bond that will further reduce her isolation. Her housing is stabilizing, too—she will soon receive a Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing voucher and will work with the VA team to locate permanent, supportive housing.

Blog Source:  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs