Caring for the Older Population

Caring for the Older Population

Caring for an older population is becoming an increasingly important initiative for those in the nursing field. This is due to several factors, including the aging of the baby boomers, an increasing life expectancy, and the fact that there are fewer young individuals to provide care. While today’s elderly population makes up approximately 13% of the total U.S. population, this figure is expected to jump to 20% by 2030. But providing care within the geriatric specialty requires several core competencies.

Know the Nature of Each Patient

When approaching the elderly patient, CNAs should be aware of the myths and stereotypes of this demographic, as well as their own attitudes about aging, disability, and death. This can work to prevent overt and subtle ageism in the quality of their care. It is also imperative to recognize that, like other generations, they comprise a very diverse group with different values, beliefs, personalities, and medical illnesses. Their care should be based upon their individual needs, rather than assumptions that might be made based on their age.

Treat the Whole Patient

Providers of care to older individuals should also focus on conditions that are common for the age group, as well as knowing the differences between normal aging and signs of other illness or conditions. Educating elderly patients on their rights regarding end-of-life care, pain management, advance directives, and decision-making can be a difficult aspect of overall care, though approaching it sensitively and including any other family members can help to reassure the patients that they are being treated as they wish, and with compassion and respect.

Work as a Team

In addition to a wide variety of physical ailments, mental health problems can also be challenging in the older population. They may be prone to depression or experience trouble with late-life changes, such as retirement or alternative living arrangements. Additionally, dementia and Alzheimer’s are more likely to be experienced at this time in one’s life. Providers of care should work with the patient, the family, and any necessary mental health professionals to ensure they are delivering a comprehensive spectrum of care.

Know and Accept Needs of Older Patients

Finally, in spite of the differences between individuals, you’ll usually need to consider these factors when caring for an older patient:

  • Symptoms of illness may not be the same as those in a younger person, and there may be no obvious symptoms at all. Listen carefully to what they tell you they are feeling.

  • Extra attention to providing a safe environment may be warranted, given the greater likelihood of falling and the extreme bodily damage that can be caused by such a fall.

  • If there is any sensory limitation on the patient’s part, you may need to refine your communication methods and pause more often to check for understanding.

  • Things may take more time, including communication, self-care, eating, and other tasks. This will require more patience on your part.

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