A Piece of Nursing Wisdom for Senior Care
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
Some nurses have a natural talent in dealing with certain groups of people. Some work well with children, patients with mental illnesses, or working with the elderly. Now more than ever, nurses are needed for senior care, considering the population boom of seniors in North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the average lifespan is expected to increase 10 years by 2050, and the number of people 65 years of age and older is expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years, based on increased fertility post-World War II
Caring for senior patients is a challenge because there are several obstacles that come into play. Nurses who care for elderly patients have that extra grain of patience, a calming presence that makes it easier for them to tend to their patients’ needs, regardless of the patients’ capacity to communicate. Other nurses learn how to do this on the job, just as any other skill.
As a child of immigrants, with no other family near me, my exposure to older people was very limited. In my early years, I saw my Oma and Opa when they visited from Europe, but those periods were few and far between. Other than my grandparents, I rarely knew anyone older than my own parents; my personal exposure to senior citizens was fairly limited, before I became a nurse.
Like most people, I was taught how to speak to politely to my elders and treat them with courtesy and respect; but I didn’t know how to interact with them beyond a formal level. It was only when I went into nursing that I realized there was a big difference between being respectful to older people and treating them as whole people.
A friend from nursing school was the kind of person who instinctively knew how to interact with seniors. She grew up with an extended family around her and had frequent contact with her grandparents, and older aunts and uncles.
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Based on our radically different experiences with seniors, prior to nursing, is it any wonder that our approaches to caring for the elderly were quite different?
My friend and I were (and still are) very close. We both worked in the same hospital for a few years, sometimes on the same floor. We dealt with patients on the medical floors called “chronics,” who had nowhere to go and were being kept in the hospital until an alternate place could be found for them.