Caring For This Generation

What Do Geriatric Nurses Do?

Geriatric nurses have specific training to treat the multi-layered mental and physical ailments in the older population. These nurses assist their patients in gaining coping skills to deal with the changes in their bodies and abilities so that they can remain active for as long as possible. Other tasks of geriatric nurses include:

  • Distinguishing which conditions are acute and which are chronic and developing treatment plans based on this physical and mental assessment
  • Organizing medications
  • Keeping the lines of communication open with patients to educate them on their changing health concerns, personal safety, and disease prevention
  • Serving as a liaison between the elderly and other local resources
  • Ensuring patients are strictly adhering to medication regimens

It’s particularly crucial that geriatric nurses enjoy working with this population. If not, the associated challenges can quickly lead to nursing burnout.

Challenges for Geriatric Nurses

Tip 1: Patience Will Be Your Greatest Virtue

As everyone knows, with age comes memory loss and often slowed speech that isn’t as clear as it used to be. Caregivers of this population need to know that instructions might have to be repeated several times before they are understood, so it’s crucial to be patient.

Tip 2: Establish Rapport Up Front

Just as you need to be patient with the elderly, you need to build a sense of trust for the nurse-patient relationship to be productive. Convey positivity and use the patient’s name as much as possible to create a sense of familiarity. At the same time, the older generation also deserves respect, so finding a line between the two will be key. Never discount their opinions as “something that older people think,” as this is sure to cause a rift. Along this vein, it’s important that you are sincere with them, as just because your patients are elderly doesn’t mean they can’t tell when someone is talking down to them. This also means keeping in mind the difference between showing them empathy (which is greatly needed) and sympathy, which can be seen as condescending.    

Tip 3: Show That You Are Listening

As mentioned, it can be harder to understand people as they get older, which makes it be tempting to pretend you heard what they said when you actually didn’t. Resist the urge and ask clarifying questions instead. Using the appropriate body language is crucial, nodding in affirmation when you don’t understand. Go the extra mile when you have the time by taking a chair opposite them and maintaining eye contact, so they know they are being heard. 

Tip 4: Bear in Mind Their Sensory Challenges

A significant portion of the senior population has hearing and/or vision issues. As the severity varies from case to case, it’s important that geriatric nurses know each patient’s ability to communicate. Because of these challenges, it’s also best to speak in plain language so you are confident your patient understands. 

Tip 5: Show Comfort

This should go without saying, as it should be the standard of care with any population, but the aging population, in particular, has been through so much. They’ve often lost loved ones, independence, and a sense of purpose. As their caregiver, it’s your job to make sure the hospital or wherever they are being cared for is a place of comfort. 

Tip 6: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Because the severity and span of illnesses older patients can experience is so broad, you will inevitably face a medical situation that is above your level of expertise. Never be embarrassed to reach out for help. 

Tip 7: Be Proactive

This might sound depressing but the truth is that the conditions of the people you are treating as a geriatric nurse are not likely to improve. Involving family and other caregivers in the process of finding end-of-life care is often a reality, so it’s best to open up these lines of communication as early as you can. 

Did you miss part one of this blog series on caring for the aging baby boomer population? Check it out now.

Whether you decide to specialize in geriatric nursing or not, the chances are high that you will treat the elderly at one point or another. Being prepared for the nuances of this population will help you to be much more effective in doing so. 

Interested in seeing what opportunities we have to offer at Eisenhower Health in the beautiful and bustling Coachella Valley? Review our openings.

Originally posted on 16/9/2019

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