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Working in gerontological nursing can be immensely rewarding, but in order to be successful, it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the characteristics unique to this age group. Here are some key areas to focus on if you are pursuing a career in adult-gerontology acute care nursing.

Bridge the Generation Gap

Generations previous to our own often have different sociocultural norms. Being mindful of this will facilitate their care. They may be uncomfortable being addressed by their first name, or they may be very private. Giving respect and space where needed will go a long way toward earning their trust and confidence, making it easier to care for them effectively.

Even elderly individuals without a cognitive impairment can experience a sudden change in mentation, often triggered by infection (UTIs are common culprits) or by a change in routine, geography or both. Safety is paramount, so be mindful of their room assignment as well as their potential for confusion to ensure that they are well monitored.

Making Sense

The elderly often lose acuity of one or more senses, so it’s important to accommodate these changes. Due to decreased activity levels, muscle mass, and food intake, they often complain of feeling cold. This is also attributable to chronic conditions such as anemia, kidney disease, underactive thyroid, or even the medications they take.

Offer them warm blankets, light jackets, or slipper socks to help their bodies retain warmth. Adjust the room temperature as appropriate. Elderly patients often will ask that their hot beverages or food be reheated. This alteration in heat perception is quite common in older patients, so reheat with caution to avoid injury.

Their hearing and vision are likely to be impaired to some degree, so speak deliberately and clearly. Let them see your face as you’re speaking. Repeat what you’ve said when asked. And encourage the use of eyeglasses and hearing aids where indicated.

The Physical

Functional impairments such as balance issues and weakness are common among the elderly. They should be closely monitored or assisted when ambulating. Be mindful of hazards that may cause falls: furniture placed too closely together, uneven walking surfaces, throw rugs, electrical cords, and IV tubing. Weakness may necessitate the use of assistive devices to ambulate. Monitor transfers to determine whether they may need greater assistance for the transfer order.

Due to their nutritional status, chronic conditions, and medication, many will have fragile skin—their skin may have a papery texture and is easily prone to tears and lacerations. Protect it by keeping it clean and well-moisturized. Choose an appropriate tape for dressings, IV tubing, etc.; this will help minimize damage to the skin and potential allergic reactions, or when appropriate use mesh sleeves.

Constipation is another common complaint, related to decreased fluid intake, reduced activity, and polypharmacy. Monitor their diet and fluid intake for fiber, nutrients, and adequate hydration; and encourage activity and fluids as tolerated per their doctor’s orders.

Want to know more about adult-gerontology acute care nursing? Visit here to determine which certification may be right for you.

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Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN

Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN, has been a Virginia registered nurse for over twenty years. She's also been writing in some fashion since she was a child. Today she combines both of her passions by writing about health and wellness for the industry and the consumer. She lives on a small hobby farm with her husband and a varying number of animals.
Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN

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