Elderly patients need your love and attention when they come in for a checkup. Most older adults are dealing with multiple ailments at a time. It makes your job as a nurse challenging since you will need to provide remedial measures for various diseases without overwhelming the patient with the diagnosis. In addition, over 60% of older adults deal with at least two chronic health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. Therefore, when these patients turn to you for help, they need you to help them without aggravating their situation further. So you have your work cut out for you.
Fortunately, with the right attitude, soft skills, and patience, you can easily look after the elderly population without feeling stressed by the workload. While most older adults may not be readily cooperative, you can win them over by providing compassionate care and concern for their well-being. To make sure you can communicate, understand and work with elderly patients. Here’s what you need to do:
1- Provide A Complete Assessment
A head-to-toe checkup ensures that elderly patients are not exposed to underlying health conditions. There is a threat that these conditions may progressively worsen even if the patient comes in for a minor consultation. You don’t have to be a DNP (Doctor of Nurse Practitioner) to provide this kind of care. When it comes to taking their Blood pressure, checking their weight, and monitoring their blood glucose level, a BSN degree will suffice (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
Consider looking into the USI nursing programs to become a more skillful nurse by acquiring the necessary degree you need for an improved patient checkup. In addition, you will be in a much better position to educate the patient and advise them on how to look after their disease while discussing possible treatment with the doctor.
A thorough assessment can also inform you of the patient’s medications and the dosage they need without accidentally prescribing more than necessary. Going the extra mile for older patients makes sure their health doesn’t take a drastic plunge.
2- Keep Your Composure
It is common to become much slower with age. Older patients may not respond right away, have trouble following your instructions, and can even pick fights with you. Certain elderly patients may also have mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and show signs of early dementia, interfering with receiving care. However, you should become impatient and push the patient to seek treatment at no point. If you feel agitated and frustrated by your patient’s lack of response, give yourself a breather and retry when you’re calmer.
Elderly patients may also get scared of getting an X-ray or into the MRI machine. You can ease their fears by using gentle and soothing words, reassuring them about your presence, and staying within their line of sight before they go into the machine. As a nurse, you cannot resort to extreme measures like tranquilizers unless you have the doctor’s approval. It would help if you used your words to comfort them or through your calming touch with their consent or images that make them respond positively. In some instances, you may also sing to the older adult. If a patient keeps asking you the same question, continue answering without getting angry or reminding them they’ve already asked. Your patience makes it easier for older adults to lean on you for support.
3- Learn Better Methods of Communication
Sensory loss is a common issue among older patients. About one-third of them have hearing issues, while over a quarter have trouble seeing. You should check how much a patient comprehends and adjust yourself accordingly. For instance, gauge the range they can hear through a simple test like using a tuning fork and speaking at that volume to deal with hearing loss. You may even need to go closer to their ear and, in extreme cases, resort to writing.
Alternatively, suppose a patient has vision problems. In that case, you will need to carefully explain what you’re about to do and slowly speak for them to understand. Try not to use long sentences but stick to short phrases and use plain language to name the test. For example, say urine test instead of urinalysis. If a patient is non-verbal, learn hand gestures and signs they understand to provide context on the tests they need to go through. Always maintain a friendly tone and never make them feel like a burden for having trouble seeing or hearing you.
4- Speak To A Care Taker
Elderly patients need to have someone to take care of them at home. It can be an at-home attendant, an offspring, or perhaps a caregiver from an old house. In all these circumstances, you need to speak with a caretaker in the presence of the supervising doctor. It will help older patients get more holistic care outside of the hospital. Start by listing down all the medication a patient needs and advise the caretaker to purchase a pill organizer and pill cutter if the medicine is too big. If taking crushed pills is still challenging, recommend alternative oral syrups.
You should walk caregivers through a hygiene regimen, including the kind of soaps, frequency of washing, and checking for skin infections. If the elderly patient has an abscess or bedsore, never allow the caretaker to touch them without the presence of a medical professional. However, you can teach them wound care.
Your set of instructions also needs to include a diet plan. Refrain from suggesting a generic meal plan but tailor it to the patient’s needs. For example, if the older adult has protein deficiency, recommend all protein-rich ingredients such as eggs, lentils, and lean meat with preparation methods.
5- Maintain The Elderly Patient’s Dignity
Elderly patients may not pay attention to their attire or the state of their bodies. While under your care, you should ensure you’re not unintentionally embarrassing them further or letting them be in a vulnerable position when they’re disoriented. If you see a patient indecently exposed, cover them up. You can ask the hospital board to get specialized gowns for older adults, which are easy to slip on and not a hassle to manage.
Older adults have a right to privacy. Therefore close the curtains and don’t allow more than one more nurse to assist you with them. While providing a sponge bath or changing an adult diaper, wear gloves, don’t make comments, or take too long to administer care. It will also help prepare the examination room for the patient in advance, such as dimming the lights, providing a footstool, and lowering the examination table. In addition, please treat them with respect and maintain cordiality.
As a nurse, your profession is about providing excellent care to all patients, including the elderly. But, older adults may need more of your attention and expertise because of their gradually deteriorating health and slowed-down body. Therefore start by conducting a thorough assessment of the patient and chart down their health status.
Older patients may not reciprocate your advice right away, so keep yourself in check and don’t let your irritation get you. You may need to exert yourself more when communicating with these patients. Most may struggle to understand you in the first few attempts.