The U.S Census estimates show that more than 24% of Americans will enter their old age by 2060, which means that the elderly population will double. Older adults usually have more than one chronic illness. This indicates that the need for senior nurses or nurses specializing in elderly care will be higher than ever in the healthcare industry.
Elderly patients are usually difficult to deal with. This does not mean they throw tantrums or get frustrated over little things. This is not always the case. Old age comes with various problems like difficulty in hearing, speaking, remembering, and visual deficits. These age factors pose a hindrance to effective treatment. Nurses may find it challenging to ensure a complete continuum of care for elderly patients. Unlike children or young adults, elderly patients demand a different amount of respect, empathy, compassion, and care.
However, with some effort and a few tips, you can tackle any challenge that comes your way while treating an elderly patient. We have listed a few tips to help you provide quality care to the next elderly patient you will encounter.
Specialize in geriatric care
If you are committed to devoting your nursing career to caring for the elderly, consider obtaining a master’s degree in geriatric care. A master’s degree will give you the essential knowledge, tools, and techniques necessary to provide quality care to elderly patients.
If you are concerned about how to acquire a master’s degree alongside a full-time nursing practice, get your master’s degree online. It will help you balance your study and work life with minimum hassles. Several universities provide online education without compromising on quality. For example, online AGPCNP programs by La Salle University can be completed within 20-36 months by adopting a flexible learning routine. You’ll be able to treat patients from adolescence to older adults.
Effective communication is essential to ensure the speedy recovery of patients. Some patients may be stubborn, while others may be difficult or unresponsive because of age-related factors like poor hearing, vision, or cognitive issues.
Nurses need different approaches to tackle these challenges. For example, to overcome issues regarding vision, nurses may provide hand-outs in a large font or communicate information in audio format. Similarly, to address hearing issues, a nurse may speak loudly without yelling or communicate in a place with minimum noise, etc.
To help patients with cognitive deficits, you can also repeat the information or provide pamphlets to aid their understanding. These strategies will go a long way in helping your elderly patients better understand their condition and adhere to the treatment guidelines.
Improve your body language
If you constantly look at the patient’s chart while asking about their problems, what impression will it leave on the patient about you? It will likely convey that you are more focused on your task than the patient. This is how it works. Body language gives cues to the patients that they can interpret in a million ways. So, you need to be mindful of your facial expressions, gestures, etc., while interacting with an elderly patient.
A good way to interact with elderly patients is to sit opposite them, maintain eye contact, and show gestures like holding their hands. All these gestures give a sense of reassurance that they are in the right hands. Also, these facilitate rapport building which is extremely crucial in the case of elderly patients.
Show empathy and compassion
Empathy and compassion are the keys to building rapport with elderly patients. Elderly patients are dealing with various age-related and health-related challenges simultaneously. They need validation from their care providers.
You could use statements like “Your reaction is right; I would have felt the same if I were in your place” to empathize with them. You can also encourage patients to cover milestones towards recovery by saying, “You have done well; it wouldn’t have been possible for me if I were you.” These statements will strengthen your bond with the elderly patients who are specifically in need of validation of their concerns. Your empathy will also make them adhere to the treatment and stay on the road to recovery.
Be respectful and patient
How will you react to an elderly patient who doesn’t respond to your questions no matter how often you repeat them? You are most likely to get frustrated and flounce out of the ward. But, while treating elderly patients, you must be patient and consistent in your efforts.
Elderly patients get frustrated, sad, aggressive, or even violent over minor things. You must start talking to them respectfully no matter how many times you have to repeat the same thing. Even if they get angry at you, your job is to keep calm and get to the stem of their attitude. Probing the underlying problem for their attitudes and behaviors will help in communication. Chances are they will acknowledge your respect and concern for them and make them understand the situation. If you get all worked up like the patient, there will be no room for effective interaction.
Ensure comfort with care
While you are providing the patients will all the medicines, treatments, and other guidelines, it is necessary to ensure they are physically comfortable. Listen to the patients’ complaints about any disturbances in the ward or issues with other patients. Alleviation of physical discomfort will reduce distractions during treatment and enhance the patient’s recovery.
Providing physical comfort is especially difficult for patients with multiple chronic conditions. However, you can ensure comfort to your elderly patients with simple gestures like offering a book to more anxious patients or providing blankets to cold patients. This will contribute to the quality of care you provide to elderly patients.
Elderly patients are the most difficult patient population to treat. Moreover, elderly patients usually have more severe health-related conditions and even multiple chronic conditions. Nurses need knowledge, expertise, and skills to provide individualized care to each patient. There are a few tips that can help nurses deal with elderly patients. For example, nurses may go for specialized education in geriatric care, work on their body language to avoid communicating any wrong meanings and communicate clearly and effectively. Moreover, they must show empathy, respect, and compassion under any condition and ensure the physical comfort of the elderly patients. These tips will help you provide quality care to elderly patients.