09 Feb Basic Skills for Gerontological Nursing
As our body ages, gradual changes tend to occur. From the basic building blocks to the vital organs of the body, these changes are expected but can still affect our day to day routine. As we go through the normal process of aging, we often notice a decrease in our appetite. Food becomes less appealing to older adults because of the decreased sense of taste and smell. Some people even have a dryer mouth and less saliva due to the medications used for certain conditions. Adequate nutrition is highly recommended at this moment to combat the changes and ensure optimal health.
It can be a great idea to approach a dietician to meet the recommended dietary requirements. Dieticians are healthcare professionals that provide reliable information on proper meal planning including the appropriate quantities of food to eat every day and the vitamin content of these various foods. Following the dietician’s diet plan can be a great help to avoid malnutrition. Nonetheless, aging affects the skin and makes it more dry and fragile. Older adults have to hydrate themselves with 8 to 10 glasses of fluids daily and should use a moisturizer from time to time. But immobile seniors who are at greater risk of pressure ulcers should change their sitting and lying positions at least every two hours to minimize swelling, itching and prolonged skin sores.
Every older adult has different special needs. Other than the physical needs, the emotional aspect should be taken into consideration. Families with elderly relatives should provide support and love to minimize depression and promote healthy aging process.
Growing old with adequate support promotes compliance and is a recommended healthcare practice. Studies show that happy older adults are more compliant to daily exercising and proper food intake. They tend to follow regular doctor visits and are more conscious of their health. Proper exercises include a 30-minute physical activity, whether walking, trekking or running. This can help promote healthy blood circulation, especially in lower extremities and other vital organs.
Maintaining a good hygiene is also important for elderly adults. Proper foot care should be done once in a while to check the circulation and ensure that no open sore or itchy skin is visible. Foot problems are common among older adults with diabetes. In extreme cases, this may lead to amputation and immobility as the disease progresses, but it can be avoided if there is proper hygiene maintained. Family members should encourage their elderly adults to bathe daily and maintain oral hygiene. They need to be encouraged or assisted with their activities of daily living (ADL), to have better health.
Factors that Affect Health Promotion among Older Adults
Health promotion in elderly adults is sometimes challenging. Several factors can affect planning and preparing meals for example, as some people are not able to obtain the necessary nutrients for their physical and psychological well-being. The good news is that a lot of these factors can be controlled and its negative impact can be minimized.
Decreased taste and smell
Older adults have fewer taste buds compared to younger people. According to Medline Plus, the number of taste buds starts to decrease at the age of 40 to 50 in women and 50 to 60 in men. Some of them atrophy, leading to a reduced taste sensation and loss of appetite. Elderly adults often do not eat well and have a lesser food consumption than younger adults. This is also due to their diminished sense of smell caused by a loss of the nerve endings in the nose.
Loss of appetite
A lot of people have a lesser appetite as they age. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, around 5 to 10% of adults over 45 years old experience an iron deficiency anemia caused by difficulty in chewing and loss of appetite. The inability to obtain the right nutrients can affect the overall nutrition of an elderly; that is why it is recommended to supplement the body with vitamins and eat small and frequent meals. Food can be more appetizing by adding or using spices and preparing different kinds of meals every day.
Lack of mobility and financial issues
Seniors with a disability often have problems buying nutritious foods and meals. These individuals have limited access to the supermarket because of their physical condition, but programs such as delivery meal services are now offered to make nutritious foods accessible. Nevertheless, financial issues like small fixed income among the elderly population impose a big problem on health promotion. This limits the food selection in older people, especially those with special dietary needs.
Most older adults may not be able to absorb the essential nutrients from food and other sources because of age-related changes in metabolism. They often experience Vitamin B12 deficiency because their digestive tract is unable to absorb the vitamin well, making them at risk of depression and dementia. A blood test can assess this deficiency and vitamin B12 shots are necessary to supplement the loss.
Reproductive system problems
Women lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass as their estrogen production declines. This menopausal stage can lead to a greater risk for osteoporosis, as the calcium production decreases through time. Men on the other hand, also experience prostate problems which can block the urinary system and cause difficulty of urination and bowel movement. Unfortunately, these reproductive system problems can limit an elderly’s compliance towards health promotion.
Some older adults have different views on life. Bound by faith, these seniors believe that aging is a normal process and compliance to health promotion is an added cost. Therefore, they tend to isolate their selves and wait for the time of their death.
Heart disease risk
The risk for heart disease increases after we reach 50. For older adults, developing a heart disease is common. They cannot easily perform certain tasks because of their unstable blood pressure. Some elderly even limit their food selection because of the possibility of aggravating the disease.
Depression and isolation
Older adults who live alone are vulnerable to social isolation. They are prone to depression which can lead to poor nutrition and disease complications. Nowadays, a lot of senior centers and elderly care programs are reaching out to these individuals to minimize depression and promote optimum health and well-being.
Understanding the Pros and Cons of Home Health Services
Rather than staying in a long-term care facility, some older adults choose to live at home as long as possible. Leaving their comfort zone is, of course, a big adjustment to make, but it can be a great option to obtain proper health care and assistance with daily activities. Families with elderly should consider home health services to avoid injuries and exacerbation of medical diseases. However, it is important to assess certain factors and weigh the pros and cons of the home health services to minimize its potential negative impact on the affected individual.
Deciding on staying at home or not
It is natural for every older adult to want to stay at their home rather than to live in a healthcare facility. However, some issues might be encountered as the years pass. For instance, the location of the home and accessibility of healthcare services should be considered. Older adults have special needs, and most of them are urgent. If the house is quite far from these facilities, it would be a big problem when accidents take place. It is also great to consider the support available from the immediate family. Some families cannot look after their old parents. Thus, they would rather seek home health services and finance such plan to support the elderly. Most importantly, the financial capability should be emphasized because seeking for caregivers or even putting the older adult to a long-term care facility is expensive. On top of that, some elderly have existing medical conditions, and it can be an added financial burden to those seeking for home health services.
Involving the loved ones in availing home care services
Everyone has a different family support and structure. If you have an elderly at home, it is not easy to make decisions for his/her long-term care, but it is always better to discuss all of these than to wait for the time when options become limited. A strong family support is helpful, to begin with, however, if some members cannot look after the older adult who is vulnerable to health risks and injuries, then it would be best to seek professional help. The decision to avail home care services should be made upon by everybody, including the person involved. Unless the older adult is incapable of thinking and making their life decisions, considering his/her opinion is vital to make things go smooth and without unnecessary hassle.
Finding the best home care services
Although there are a lot of home care services available, finding the right one can be challenging. To start, ask referrals from family, friends, colleagues or neighbors. These people might know the best facility where home care services are available. They can also suggest the prices and services that are suitable for your elderly’s needs. But if everything else fails, you can utilize the older adult resources within your locality. There are senior centers where you can inquire about their services. You simply have to gather as much information as possible and compare the services to pick the right one that suits you best.
Types of Home Care Services
Home care services can be obtained from full-service agencies or independent providers. Full-service agencies are often expensive because of their legitimacy in providing home care services. Their businesses are registered, and they have several caregivers working for them. Regarding quality care, full-service agencies oversee their people and make sure to send caregivers who have a great professional experience and the right training. Payment concerns can be easily addressed with this type of home care service, but they usually cost more than the independent providers.
Finding home care services from independent providers is more challenging. It will be a lot of effort on your behalf because it will be your job to find the right caregiver to work for you. Although they charge less than full-service agencies, the independent providers do not guarantee quality care. You have to screen the applicants carefully and ensure to hire only those who are qualified and capable.
The Different Types of Nonverbal Communication
Good communication is the core foundation of a successful relationship. In caring for the elderly, it is essential to recognize and be familiar with non-verbal communication – like facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, the tone of voice and posture. These signals have a huge impact on them, because it is often the starting point of conversation, especially when it comes to providing quality healthcare. Most older adults have varying special needs. Their interaction with other people is quite limited compared to young people because of their age and disability. If we do not recognize the nonverbal cues that are displayed in an older adult, we cannot become an effective healthcare provider. Thus, if you want to communicate better, it is helpful to be more sensitive to the body language and other nonverbal cues.
There are several types of nonverbal communication signs, and facial expressions are some of them. The human face is expressive, and it can express many emotions without ever saying a word. Unlike other forms of non-verbal communication, facial expressions are universal. We can express happiness, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust similarly regardless of the culture. However subtle cues as different for altered the balance. That is why it is important to get to know the older adult you care for to know what they are trying to communicate, even without words.
Body movement and posture
Our perception towards other people is affected by how they stand, sit, walk and hold their head. The way we carry ourselves says a lot about the person. This nonverbal communication includes posture, stance, bearing and subtle movements.
Gestures are part of our daily lives. We use our hands when we speak or argue and express ourselves by waving, pointing or beckoning. However, it is important to take note that gestures have a different meaning in different cultures. Even simple things like nodding, patting someone on the head or showing your feet can have an entirely different meaning depending on where you come from. They might be easily misinterpreted by other people if not done properly.
Eye contact is an important type of nonverbal communication tool. For elderly, this may not be applicable at all times, but for someone who has a clear vision and perception, it can imply various emotions. It can mean interest, affection, attraction or even hostility.
Touch is also a form of interpersonal communication. Handshake, warm hug, reassuring tap on the back, a patronizing pat on the head and a controlling grip on the arm are all forms of communicating a message, but they provide a different meaning. If you are unsure about the other person’s reaction, it is best to use touch and body contact moderately as not to offend anyone.
There are some elderly who require a lot of space to feel comfortable. This type of nonverbal communication should be observed because personal space needs vary widely. It usually depends on the culture, situation, and closeness of the relationship. If the older adult sits close to you, it may indicate the feelings of comfort, closeness or affection. But, it can also mean that they come from a culture where less personal space is the norm, and they have no other alternate feelings attached to it.
The tone of the voice and how you say something can convey a very different meaning. Communicating with an elderly requires a particular tone and pace of voice. When communicating with someone who is older try not to speak too fast or use unnecessary slang. Talk at a clear slower pace, without sounding condescending or patronizing. It is important to understand this kind of nonverbal communication to promote understanding and convey the right message.
Barriers to communication and strategic ways to deal with it
Communicating with the elderly can be challenging and frustrating, but good communication can be a great help to prevent unwanted reactions. Since some older people have a physical or mental impairment, it is vital for healthcare providers to have a good understanding of the aging process. It is also necessary to use a lot of patience when it comes to older people with limited physical and mental abilities. Thus, to make communication efficient, listen carefully and speak clearly or slowly to convey the message and ensure that the elderly understand exactly what you want him/her to do.
Communicating with a Hearing Impaired Elderly
Talking to people with hearing impairment is quite difficult, especially for the first-timers. However, if the person has a hearing aid attached to its ear, the only thing to check is its functionality. Make sure to see if it is turned on and has a working battery. If this is ok, the person should be able to hear without difficulty. Talking to a person with hearing impairment should be done in front of him to get his full attention. The right approach is necessary to convey your message properly. Whenever possible, try to talk in a normal fashion and on the same height level. Use simple and short sentences to make the conversation easier to understand. And most importantly, give enough time for the hearing impaired person to respond to your questions.
Communicating with the Deaf
Just like communicating with a hearing-impaired adult, communicating with a deaf person requires patience and strategic communication skills. Writing messages is the best way to do this, but you can also use other devices to facilitate communication. Use a pictogram grid or sign language to convey the message. Do not forget to spend more time on the person, without rushing or putting him under pressure.
Communicating with a visually impaired
For the visually impaired older adults, it is important for the caregiver to make an extra effort in caring for them. Describing the room layout and the type of care rendered should be done to let the elderly become aware of its surroundings. When you speak to them, do it in a way that the person knows that it is him or her you are referring to. Whenever possible, treat him like someone who can see. Just because they are visually impaired does not mean they are deaf or mentally challenged. An older adult who has a vision impairment can still think, talk and listen. You just have to be patient when guiding them and making them aware of their surroundings.
Communicating with an aphasic
Elderly with aphasia often have problems understanding and using the right words. This kind of condition is related to stroke and brain damage. Thus, caregivers should be patient in communicating. Aphasia can either be expressive or receptive. Expressive aphasia is when a person can understand the words, but they cannot speak it properly while receptive aphasia is when a person cannot speak and comprehend. To communicate with an elderly having aphasia, pictogram aid, gestures and writing words can be used. Never rush to get an answer because this individual has a hard time expressing and conveying the right words. Reassurance and words of encouragement are also beneficial to communicate properly.
Communicating to an elderly with Alzheimer’s or Memory Loss
Alzheimer’s disease is challenging. A lot of families seek professional help when one of their older adults has this kind of mental disease. When caring for an elderly having Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to approach the individual from the front, or within his line of vision. Avoid surprise appearances, because it can upset the elderly and might have an adverse impact. Eye contact should be maintained at all times and using a low-pitched, or slow speaking voice is necessary. An elderly with Alzheimer’s disease tend to be forgetful and aggressive that is why repetition is necessary.
Skills and Techniques in Communicating an Elderly
Older adults often experience difficulty in expressing their needs. Carers and nurses who are the primary caregivers should make it a priority to compassionately and more efficiently communicate with their elderly patients to deliver the appropriate nursing services.
Most older adults experience physical disability, cognitive deterioration or some medical illness which causes their communication skills to deteriorate. Thus, it is vital for the healthcare workers to remember that effective communication can be done by understanding the elderly’s situation and possessing a compassionate attitude.
Knowing the right communication techniques allows the older adults to eliminate their fear of receiving constant care and at the same time promote feelings of reassurance and cooperation. To maintain excellent communication with an elderly adult, some tips should be taken into account:
Be conscious of your body language
A huge part of communication is non-verbal. Some studies show it may be as high as 90 %. If you are saying something positive, but your body conveys a negative message, the elderly may think of it as sarcastic or dishonest. This is why it is important to be conscious of your body language and talk the elderly at an eye level in order to avoid misunderstanding. Older adults are often sensitive to non-verbal gestures. Hence, a cheerful disposition is a lot of help to convey a message without problems.
Avoid using jargon
Most healthcare workers communicate with their colleagues using medical jargon. However, it is not recommended to use these terms with older adults, even if he has a medical background. Using short and simple words is usually helpful to convey the message clearly. It minimizes misunderstanding and allows the easy provision of healthcare services. Treatment plans, diagnosis, and other concerns should be addressed properly through questions that are understandable and easy to comprehend. If medical jargon is necessary, the terms should be explained and identified immediately to minimize confusion.
Healthcare workers often assume older adults to have a disability. Although some might have one, it is recommended to remove assumptions and ask the person whether he/she has issues with comprehension or hearing. Approaching the elderly as a normal person is a sign of respect and promotes trust between the parties. But if it becomes apparent that the conversation is not followed and the elderly are not in a sound state, necessary adjustments should be followed.
Nutrition and Aging
Healthy eating should be part of every elderly’s diet plan. Food intake provides energy and sufficient nutrients when done properly. However, without proper nutrition, the aging process can affect several organs and cause various health complications, which in some extreme cases may lead to irreversible disability. This is the reason why proper nutrition should be followed to promote quality life among elderly adults. Following essential nutrients should be taken into consideration:
Vitamin D and Calcium
Elderly individuals require more Vitamin D and calcium to keep their bones strong and healthy. Foods rich in calcium include a fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, yogurt, fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, fruit juices and canned fish have soft bones. Elderly adults need at least three servings of Vitamin D and calcium every day. If calcium supplements or multivitamins are taken as a replacement, make sure to choose one having Vitamin D.
Fiber is essential in every elderly’s diet to keep the bowel functions normal and promote a healthy heart. It gives one a feeling of fullness which in return minimizes a feeling of hunger. Older men and women should consume at least 30 grams of fiber a day from healthy food sources like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. There are also other grocery products with fiber content, but choose those with at least three grams of dietary fiber per serving.
Like any other nutrient, potassium is also important to maintain and promote healthy living among older adults. Increasing the potassium intake and decreasing the sodium consumption may lower the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Foods rich in potassium, include green leafy vegetables, fruits, yogurt and low-fat milk. Try to avoid foods with high sodium content. Rather than using salt in dishes, replace it with herbs and spices to lessen the sodium intake.
For overall health and weight control, fat calorie consumption should be at least 20 to 35 percent of the diet. Most of the fat intake should come from heart-friendly unsaturated fat sources like extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, canola oil, avocados, and almonds. Healthy older adults without a heart disease should limit the consumption of saturated fats to 10 percent, while those with a high cholesterol history should limit it to 7 percent of their daily food intake. Red meat, fried foods, and even full-fat dairy products should be used minimally or in some cases even avoided.
Making Calories Count
Older individuals cannot eat the way they did in their 20’s if they want to maintain their weight. It is a sad fact that as we age, we tend to be less active, lose muscle mass and gain fat. These changes cause metabolism to slow down and would require an individual to keep it up in his entire lifespan.
The number of calories needed to consume every day depends on the person’s age, gender, and level of activity. For older adults with a sedentary lifestyle, at least 2,000 calories should be consumed every day and those with moderately active lifestyle; calorie consumption should be at least 2,200 to 2,400 per day. Moreover, an active older adult should consume at least 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day. This should be balanced with physical activity to keep up metabolism, build muscles and increase energy levels.
Coping with Malnutrition in Older Adults
Good nutrition is essential to the overall health. It is somewhat ironical that even though we gain weight as we age, a lot of us will be at a greater risk of malnutrition than ever. Inadequate nutrition can lead to different health concerns like a weakened immune system, poor wound healing, and muscle weakness. Additionally, malnutrition can result in a decreased appetite and loss of memory.
How malnutrition begins
The cause of malnutrition is typically a lack of food consumption or in most cases lack of sufficient nutrients. However, malnutrition arises due to some physical, psychological and social issues. For instance;
- Health concerns. Elderly adults often experience health problems like dementia or dental issues that can cause a decrease in appetite and a troubled eating. Chronic illness, difficulty in swallowing, use of certain medications, diminished taste or smell, and a recent hospitalization can also affect the amount of food consumption and nutrient absorption.
- Restricted diets. Limiting fat, salt, protein, and sugar consumption can also contribute to poor eating and malnutrition.
- Limited income. Some elderly adults do not have the right means to eat properly. Because of the increasing cost of medications and essential commodities, these individuals tend to have limited nourishment from the healthy food.
- Reduced social contact. A reduced social contact can also affect an elderly’s nutrition. This may lead to loneliness, grief, lack of mobility and failing health, which also contributes to a loss of appetite.
How to detect malnutrition and what can we do to solve it
The signs of malnutrition among older adults are quite tough to detect, especially those who are not at obvious risk at all. However, it is important to uncover this problem at its early stage to prevent complications. Whenever possible, spend time with your elderly family member and observe any changes in his/her eating habits. Signs of weight loss should be monitored along with poor wound healing, dental difficulties, and easy bruising.
A small dietary change can make a huge impact on an older adult’s health that is why coordinating with a doctor is advisable. If your loved one is gradually losing weight, tell his doctor about it to identify and address the problem as early as possible. The physician might change some of the medications that affect the older adult’s appetite, suspend any diet restriction and request for laboratory screenings. Encourage the elderly adult to eat foods rich in essential nutrients. Guide him with his eating habits and selection of food. Most of them lose their appetite so better use herbs and spices to make the food tasty and palatable.
Malnutrition can be treated if identified early. Older adults have a deteriorating health and energy levels that are why, they need to be assisted with their regular meal preparation, snacks and routine consultations. If necessary, hire someone to help the elderly at home or ask your local area agency to aging on how to go about this kind of concern.
The Rights of Medication Administration
Drug-related problems are very common in older adults. Other than adverse drug effects and overdosage, the absorption of oral medications is also affected by the changes in the gastrointestinal tract of an elderly. The aging process reduces the GI motility, GI blood flow, and gastric acid secretion; that is why it also reduces the absorption of drugs. Most of the older adults have medications for their existing medical conditions. These are given by their doctors to prevent or control certain imbalances in their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. However, the problem with the prolonged use of oral medications is that it damages the liver and causes irreversible reactions. Thus, a regular doctor visit is necessary to manage these effects.
Elderly individuals, no matter how good or bad their memory is, should be informed about their treatment plans. Healthcare providers, including the family members, should give them the right to know their current medical condition and maintenance drugs to promote compliance.
Individuals with lifestyle diseases should be given or assisted with healthy diet and exercise. Medications and supplements are helpful to improve quality life among elderly individuals, but it is also beneficial to combine it with daily activities and healthy lifestyle.
Moreover, healthcare workers and family members with an older adult have to remember the different rights to medications. First, the right medication should be given to the right patient. Check the medication label three times and make sure to give it to the right person, especially if there are two or more elderly individuals. Maintenance medications such as those for cardiovascular disease should be checked for its expiration, dosage, and label. The doctor’s orders should be taken into account to avoid medication errors. Self-medication is often done by older adults who have no existing medical condition, but it should not be made into a habitual practice because it can cause many complications later on.
Older adults tend to be forgetful at all times. Family members and healthcare providers should not forget to administer the routine medication at the right time. Overdosage must be avoided and keeping watch for adverse side effects should be done. Make a note or document every medication given. If there are changes observed, report immediately to the medical doctor to adjust the medication or stop it from administering. Older adults are prone to overdosage and adverse side effects to a drug, so ensure to note any signs of drowsiness, allergic reactions or anything else unseen previously.
Knowing the Geriatric Health Assessment
Geriatric assessment is a multidisciplinary and multidimensional assessment tool that is designed to evaluate an older adult’s physical health, functional ability, mental health, cognition and socio-environmental circumstances. This is initiated by a physician who wants to identify a potential problem that older adult experiences. The geriatric assessment helps in diagnosing medical conditions, develop a treatment and follow-up plan, create a management of care and evaluation of long-term care needs. This tool is different from a standard medical evaluation because it includes non-medical domains.
Every older adult is assessed for his/her functional ability. This is to determine if he can perform tasks required for living. There are two key divisions of functional ability named the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL). ADL are self-care activities that every person performs daily like bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and many others. On the other hand, IADL are activities that are required to live independently like preparing meals, doing housework, managing finances, taking medications or using a telephone. Physicians often assess older adults with their functional ability by observing them on completing simple tasks like picking up a pen, writing a sentence, unbuttoning a shirt, climbing up and down the ladder and many others. The physician will then score them based on their ability to perform the tasks given to them.
The geriatric assessment also includes an elderly’s physical health. This incorporates all kinds of general medical history like current illness, main problems, the past or current medical conditions, social and family history, demographic data as well as a review of systems. The approach to physical examination and history should be specific to the older adult. The doctor will also include the nutrition, hearing, vision, balance, fall prevention, polypharmacy, osteoporosis, fecal and urinary continence in his evaluation.
Cognition and Mental Health
Older adults usually experience a deteriorating mental capacity. As part of the geriatric assessment, the physician asks several questions that would test the cognition and mental health of an individual. To test for signs of depression, a Depression Scale or a Hamilton Depression Scale is utilized. This simple screening tool will determine the feelings of an elderly, especially his interests on several things. Meanwhile, the geriatric assessment will also check if the elderly have signs of dementia. An early diagnosis of the condition allows the patients to manage the disease and helps the families to make preparations in their day to day life.
According to the information released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 70% of the non-institutionalized adults (or those who are 65 years old and above) live with their spouses and extended family, while the remaining 30% live alone. Physicians often use geriatric assessment to determine the most appropriate living arrangement for the older adult. This is vital to consider because the socio-environmental circumstances have a huge impact on their social interaction, environmental safety, and available support resources.
The geriatric assessment is a perfect tool to identify the problems that exist within the elderly’s living conditions. When the physician obtains the necessary information, he will then create the necessary documentation and allow other members of the healthcare team to access the data. This assessment includes the nutritional, functional, medical and social implications that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. This will create an effective management of care because of the collaboration is done by the healthcare team.
Meeting the safety needs of older adults
Safety is number one concern when providing care to elderly adults. According to the National Safety Council, there are 24,000 older people who die from accidental injuries every year, and further 800,000 older people who sustain serious injuries. These are caused by several factors including falls, burns, automobile accidents, poisoning, physiologic changes of aging, increased use of medications, cognitive and emotional changes as well as increased incidence of chronic disease.
Internal risk factors
Older adults usually have diminished vision and hearing abilities. The changes in their peripheral vision interfere with their ability to judge the height and distance of stairs, the speed of vehicles and the surrounding furniture in the house. Changes in visual acuity make it even harder to read small print labels, prescriptions, directions and road signs. This is the reason why several older adults take incorrect medications or in wrong dosages, because of their inability to see or read labels.
Furthermore, the decreased auditory acuity also reduces the elderly’s ability to identify and respond appropriately to whistles, alarms and warning calls. For instance, if there is an impending danger caused by fire or health concerns, they cannot hear and respond to the siren coming from an ambulance or fire truck. Their diminished sensitivity causes them to be at risk for injuries and accidents. In fact, if they have a health problem or chronic disease, their safety is in jeopardy. They might have an altered balance, decreased mobility and muscle strength, gait changes, slowed reaction time and postural changes conditions, which causes them to fall, slip or slide in different areas.
Older adults are also prone to environmental hazards which are presented by a variety of objects and circumstances that happen on a daily basis. It can be found everywhere like homes, public buildings, busy streets and healthcare settings. For instance, fire is the most common cause of injuries and deaths among older adults. Even though smoke alarm systems are installed, some of these individuals forget to switch off the appliances including ovens, heaters, and other cooking equipment. Older adults who are also living alone or with their spouse are at risk for burglary. The fact that no one is physically able to chase and fight against the thieves, it is no wonder why most of their valuables are stolen without their awareness.
Addressing Different Safety Issues
Safety is always a concern among older adults. Their vulnerability to external and internal factors often leads them to a higher risk of irreversible physical injuries and death. To address this issue, family members are advised to hire someone to look after their aging parents or grandparents. This individual will be of great help to the family and the older adults who require assistance in their day to day activities. Whenever possible, the hired personnel should be a licensed carer or nurse who has the right knowledge in dealing with the demands of the elderly.
For older adults who are living in their homes, certain areas should be renovated to minimize falls, slips, and bruises. Every part of the house should be accessible, especially if the elderly use a wheelchair or a crane. Stairs and other objects that can hinder the pathways should be adjusted. Family members should make an effort to help their older adult cope with his routine activities. If the elderly are placed in a healthcare facility, make sure to check their ability to provide a better way of living. An elderly should be placed in an area where risks are minimized, and safety measures are adequately implemented.