Aging takes a negative toll on the lives of many. Some suffer an inevitable decline in vision, hearing, muscle strength, while others might develop more severe conditions.
However, with proper preventative care, many calamities can be avoided, and the elderly can continue living a healthy, albeit a physically less active lifestyle.
As nurses, taking the proper measures at the right time is a crucial aspect of healthcare for an elderly patient. Let us review some useful tips for nurses working with the elderly population.
- Take preventative healthcare measures
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is particularly true for the elderly because they’re at an increased risk of illnesses and medical complications if they have a long work history.
Take your patients for proper screening tests, like physical exams, screening, and blood tests. These routine check-ups are crucial for identifying occupational diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a widespread but terminal disease in the elderly because of its long latency period. Common symptoms are shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pain, lower back pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers as it is heated. Another reason is that most employers refuse to provide safety equipment or take preventive measures to keep their workers safe, exposing them to this toxic material.
Since it takes years to see any symptoms of mesothelioma, diagnosis is usually quite late.
Once the diagnosis is positive, it has limited treatment options, but they do have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer for negligence.
If you need more information regarding this terminal disease, visiting an online resource like mesotheliomahope.com would be an excellent idea to know about treatment options, prognosis, financial options, and much more.
Immunizations are the second thing you need to ensure for the elderly. While simple infectious problems aren’t alarming for young generations, they can create complications in the elderly.
Influenza, for instance, can cause severe problems like myocardial infarction in older adults. Similarly, the elderly are at an increased risk for streptococcus pneumonia. So make sure that your elderly patients are vaccinated for influenza, pneumococcal disease, and other diseases.
- Keep up-to-date about your patient’s personal and social history
As nurses, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the patient, especially when providing continued care for the elderly.
How? Beause through this tenure you’ll accumulate knowledge about the patient’s personal history, lifestyle, habits, circumstances, social support, and medical conditions. Keep a record of this data because it’ll help in case of any changes or emergencies.
Knowing their lifestyle thoroughly also lets you target the root cause of certain complications that come with aging.
For instance, the reason behind a medical problem could be the patient’s room that wasn’t clean, meaning you’ll have to shift them elsewhere in the house.
- Reduce fall risk
Something as simple as falling could be life-threatening when it comes to the elderly. Among many other potential complications, this seemingly small risk is sometimes ignored.
Every year, nearly 18000 falls result in death in America, and about 95000 annual deaths are because of falling. Research shows that in New Zealand, 75% of all injury-related admissions of elderly (65+ years of age) to hospitals are because of falling.
Take steps to reduce this risk by being extra vigilant. This also includes making them exercise regularly because physical activity increases flexibility, motor coordination, balance, and muscle strength.
Weekly exercise with a significant focus on flexibility, balance, and occasional sessions on improving muscle strength is the ideal practice.
Other than the lack of physical activity, poor nutritional conditions also increase the risk of falling in the elderly.
Keep track of the patient’s diet, note their body weight regularly, and identify the root cause behind their poor diet.
The elderly may not be eating properly because of oral health problems, depression, social isolation, or arthritis.
- Conduct frequent medicine reviews
As people age, the proportion of people taking multiple medicines also increases. This might be necessary for patients suffering from various problems and may, in fact, alleviate symptoms.
In many cases, it can cause further complications like kidney failure, hypoglycemia, delirium, and malnutrition.
Delirium, in particular, is associated with the overuse of certain drugs. According to one estimate, drugs alone are the leading cause behind 12-39% of the instances of delirium.
Polypharmacy can have negative consequences, mainly when some medicines have severe side effects.
Therefore, it’s essential to keep track of all the medicines.
Begin by recording all of the patient’s previous medicine intolerances and treatment withdrawal effects. Then record all the medicines, including all over-the-counter medications.
After consultation, remove the medicines that aren’t working or causing side effects and keep the ones that don’t and aren’t needed as frequently.
In the elderly, even the tiniest of risk factors could be serious. When handling elderly patients, take special preventative measures even for minor threats like influenza.
You must also know that changes in body fat and other bodily functions with age mean that drug metabolism is also very different from other patients.
Last but not least, elderly patients need to be handled with exceptional sensitivity and care.