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5 Tips For Nurses Who Work With Older Adults

by Richard

The population in the US is rapidly aging. According to the US Census Bureau, over 50 million adults above 65 comprise roughly 17% of the nation’s population. By 2030, this number may increase to 73 million, resulting in a large population of older adults. It is a known fact that when a person gets older, their body starts to slow down, and they become more susceptible to diseases. Thus, it is not unusual for older people to frequent hospitals and get treated for various conditions.

Hence, if you are a nurse in geriatrics and specialize in caring for older adults, you must learn how to manage these individuals to the best of your ability. Senior patients are prone to injuries and bruises, and as a member of the healthcare sector, you don’t want to be the reason why they get hurt. Therefore, to make sure you look after older adults well, here’s what you need to know.

Make Sure You Are Qualified For The Job

As a registered nurse, you can provide care to older patients. It includes checking their vitals, creating their health chart, and updating their patient records. Older people require elaborate care, and in order to deliver it to them, you need to have the proper credentials. It would help immensely if you choose to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

You might be wondering how much does a BSN nurse make after investing their time, energy, and money into this qualification. Their average salary in the US is $79,623, which is a good enough incentive. Furthermore, enhancing your clinical and theoretical understanding can make you an asset to older patients. You will know what signs to look out for, if they have visible swellings, how to alleviate their pain, and what medicines are ideal for their condition.

Don’t Get Impatient With Them

Older patients need time to move, talk or respond to you. So, as a nurse, you should expect these delays. Patients’ reflexes slow down as they age, so they need time to understand you. In such cases, don’t get impatient or annoyed with the patient. Your aggravated tone and body language can make them weary of you. Furthermore, don’t grab them roughly, force them to take medication, or put them through a harsh checkup that may injure them. It is a form of malpractice that is highly unethical and criminal.

So, if you know that the patient coming in struggles to respond fast, set aside time for them and carry out a thorough exam. From there, on every visit, carry smaller tests and assessments to add to the information you already have without aggrieving the patient further. If you have other work to attend, ask a registered nurse to substitute for you and carry out the test. It saves you time and prevents you from rushing the older patient to corporate with you faster.

Learn To Communicate Better

You must improve your communication skills and ensure that the older patients can keep up with you. Start by speaking slowly and clearly, which makes it easier for them to hear you. If they use hearing aids, adjust the volume on the device, so they can pick up the signals. If a patient has trouble understanding, you may need visual cues or use sign language to ask questions. Sometimes, older patients may find it hard to communicate in languages outside their native tongue or prefer speaking a foreign language over the spoken one. In these instances, you will need to use a translator application or have an interpreter in the room, to facilitate communication.

When providing instructions, detail what you want the patient to do and, if needed, write it down. Print prescriptions and use a bold, large font, which makes it easier for the patient to see. It would help if you asked the patient to repeat what you told them, which enables you to confirm if they understood you clearly.

Be Careful With Medicines

Medication can be a choking hazard for older patients. They may struggle to consume pills and capsules, and this can hurt their condition further. Therefore, when administering medicines, find out what method of pill-taking your patient prefers. If they suffer from dysphagia, you may need to give them their medication as an IV or injections.

On the other hand, if a patient can swallow but has trouble with large pills, consider crushing it into a powder and then giving it to them. Please consult the doctor about what safe alternative medicine you can provide the patient and administer it accordingly. When you give them medicine, take a break before giving the other. Similarly, while handling eye drops, ask your patient to close their eyes and directly deposit the medicine in their tear duct.

Arrange For Accessibility

You may need to make different arrangements for patients with mobility problems. Some patients have weak or swollen limbs that can make it hard for them to attend their appointment, such as those with arthritis. For this reason, it would help them greatly if you ensure they’re able to get wheelchairs at the entrance of the hospital or get strapped into a hospital bed. Make sure there is an elevator always on standup for older patients. Learn how to safely shift a patient from the wheelchair to a bed, without causing them any harm.

You can also check the patient near the hospital entrance or take them to the nearest exam room to save the patient from making a long trip upstairs. Use telehealth and virtual appointments to check those patients who are bed-bound or immunocompromised. You can also guide their caretakers in testing their blood pressure and blood sugar at home.

Final Thoughts

Senior patients need more care and attention than regular patients. So, if you’re a nurse appointed to manage these cases, you must be vigilant with what you do. Start by ensuring that you have the minimal qualifications to look after a geriatric patient. As you tend to their needs, learn to stay calm and polite. Furthermore, communication is all about ensuring that the other party understands what you’re saying. So be clear with your instructions and use visual aid and cues to make your point. As you give them medicines, be careful about the methodology; the last thing you want is for them to choke accidentally. Finally, make healthcare accessible for patients by learning about what the patient needs and making the necessary arrangements. This includes setting up virtual appointments or using more wheelchairs.

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