Life expectancy in the US has improved over the years. Half a century ago, the expected age an American could touch was sixty. Nowadays, this figure has jumped up by a good two decades or more. The elderly population needs special care in the twilight years of their life. Nurses who care for the elderly do a valuable service in this regard, helping the elderly with their chores, body hygiene, and other day-to-day activities.
However, a nurse hoping to break into the elderly-care space has to go through specialized training to get registered. It is not easy being an elderly-care nurse since most of your cases will be suffering from dementia and other old age-related health issues, like arthritis.
But if you are someone who has always felt close to your grandparents and you get the whole idea of working with the senior citizens, then here’s how you can get registered:
- Develop Elderly Friendly Communication Methods
As we age, the processing power of our faculties diminishes. Impaired hearing, forgetfulness, or inability to concentrate are all part of the experience of getting old. Nurses should make sure that the way they speak is loud and clear without appearing condescending. It’s difficult for the elderly to keep up with fast-paced conversations. Nurses have to be patient and devise strategies that facilitate communication because they may struggle speaking or communicating their troubles to the nurses.
Using small, portable whiteboards to write down what you want to communicate and asking your patients to do the same can promote effective communication in the elderly-care setting.
- Invest in Educating Yourself
A master’s degree is more specialized than a bachelor’s. It helps nurses acquire the knowledge they need to work with elderly patients. By enrolling in online nursing programs, nurses can get their degrees at their own pace with the added advantage of studying from anywhere. Most elderly care units require nurses to have a master’s degree, preferably a DNP in geriatrics. The more qualified you are, the easier it will be to ace the nursing exam. Maybe you could also consider enrolling in online courses which allow you to earn a certificate in PALS and ACLS after you’ve successfully completed the program.
- Work In Other Clinical Settings
Nurses, who want to pursue a career in elderly care, should start pursuing opportunities working with the elderly even while they are still studying. Volunteering at senior homes and clinics makes them aware, earlier on, of the duties and requirements that elderly care nurse practitioners have. In these settings, they learn primary elderly care and deal with all kinds of old-age patients. Internships and volunteer work add to the credentials of a nurse, which can later help in getting suitable employment.
- Be Patient With the Elderly
Nurses should adhere to the elderly-care protocols of treating them nicely, listening to their concerns patiently, and addressing their needs in a timely manner. These are some of the ways you can make their life easier. You shouldn’t get frustrated or lose patience under any circumstance. Patients in senior homes may require help with dressing and go to the bathroom. Under no circumstance is a nurse allowed to yell, push, or grab forcefully an elderly patient.
Also, while treating them with medical equipment, like syringes or oxygen masks, a nurse should take due care that it is done gently.
- Should Be Able to Cope With Death
Unfortunately, working with elderly patients means that you’ll be dealing with patients dying a lot more than usual. Most deaths in that age occur due to advanced-stage diseases complicated by senility. Nurses can become attached to a certain elderly patient despite being taught not to get attached. When this happens, the trauma of losing that patient can overwhelm them. The key is to process those emotions rationally and talk to a counselor to get over the grief so that it doesn’t affect your work with the other patients.
- Be Mentally Flexible
An elderly-care nurse understands that old people don’t suffer from one or two distinct medical conditions. But, often, these medical conditions are feeding off of one another to become more advanced, complicated conditions. Some disorders, such as urinary tract infections, may also mess with a patient’s mental well-being. It is part of an elderly-care nurse’s job to identify symptoms of progression of diseases already diagnosed, and also on the lookout for the symptoms of diseases yet to be diagnosed.
- Emphasis On Preventive Care
Elderly patients are susceptible to injury, and the occasional slip and fall can lead to medical complications, internal wounds, bone fractures, and dislocated joints. To avoid the occurrence of such untoward events, nurses should walk them to and from the washroom. Make sure that supporting rails are built into the walls of the washroom so falls can be avoided.
Further, nurses should take necessary precautions in taking care of the patients’ diet. A poor diet can lead to weakness and slow recovery. They should also make sure that they take their pills on time.
So, in essence, you need to be taking care of all the aspects of their lives.
Elderly patients need proper and specialized care and support. Elderly-care nurses are specialized nurses dedicated to providing the right care for old-age patients. They should be effective in their communication, patient, and caring, and attentive to the needs of the elderly.