As patients get older, caring for them can become more difficult. Their hearing may be going, their sight may not be as sharp, and they may not be as mobile as they once were. That is why it is important for nurses to understand not just how to take care of patients in geriatrics, but to provide them with genuine, selfless care.
The following are some tips on how to provide top quality care to patients as they age:
Be Clear and Concise
As patients age, sensory impairments may become worse and worse. In order to counter this, it is important to sit directly across from the patient when speaking. Try to maintain eye contact with them. Hold their attention and let them know that they have yours. This helps the patient focus, while also allowing them to feel that they are being focused on. Use body language, facial expression, and even hand gestures to help communicate with the patient. It is important not to over-exaggerate these motions, though, as that could make the patient feel that you are mocking them or not taking them seriously.
Sometimes, it may take several tries before the message that you are trying to convey can get across. You may have to talk louder than your normal speaking voice or repeat some your message several times before the patient can hear what you are saying. They may even be confused by the message you are trying to send. It is important that you do not become upset with the patient. While it may be frustrating, it is not their fault. These conditions may become worse in patients with dementia. It is important to be understanding; they are trying their best to work with you. You just may have to try a little harder with them.
Keep Them Comfortable
This goes beyond flipping the patients so they do not get bed sores, or administering the proper medication; for many patients, nursing homes are a final resting place. Keeping them comfortable is just as important as any other nursing duty. If you see they are cold, (as many older people tend to be) provide them with a warm blanket. Play music that is familiar to them. When patients with memory issues are having a bad day, this music can help soothe them. Try talking to them about more than just their condition. Create a bond with them by asking about their childhood. Try to stay away from topics about their spouses or children, though. Remember not to treat them like they are sick. It is important that they remain as engaged in everyday life as possible.
Working in geriatrics can be difficult, but very rewarding. People from all walks of life come in to be cared for. They have lived through so many experiences, and now you are helping them to remain peaceful and comfortable during these new experiences. Watching a withdrawn patient become more engaged, seeing a patient’s face light up when their family comes to visit, or even watching a patient with memory issues have a good day makes everything worth it. Similar to pediatrics, takes a special kind of nurse to work in geriatrics. Our nurses are some of the best in the business.