As the geriatric population in the country increases, nurses like you will find themselves dealing with a growing number of older patients. Because older adults are more likely to develop chronic conditions, nurses must be prepared to address common geriatric conditions.
Several age-related geriatric health issues are common, including a decline in hearing and vision, incontinence, insomnia, and osteoporosis. With proper care, it is possible to help your patients enjoy a good quality of life in their golden years. Today’s post will discuss the most common health issues geriatrics face, giving you a quick overview of each.
Geriatrics in medicine refers to medical professionals specializing in providing high-quality care to older adults. There is no specific age for an older adult to be considered a geriatric, but most patients with geriatricians as their primary care physicians are 65 or older.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Most of the geriatrics’ health concerns are age-related. As patients age, diminished hearing and vision are common problems older adults face. There is a wide range of vision diagnoses among geriatrics, with cataracts and glaucoma being the most prevalent. Older adults and their family members need to ensure they have regular appointments with eye specialists to identify any underlying causes of vision changes and treat vision problems as they develop.
As an individual ages, creating an environment suitable for their diminished vision is important to improving their quality of life. From prescription glasses to surgeries and medication, care providers can prescribe a range of solutions to help geriatrics with their vision problems.
Similarly, hearing loss in geriatrics has various causes. Being proactive by visiting geriatric specialists routinely can help detect hearing problems early. Early detection can help care providers deliver timely intervention that is necessary to manage hearing loss.
Urinary incontinence refers to the loss of bladder control. Incontinence is another common geriatric condition affecting older patients. As people get older, their urinary system can deteriorate, including kidney function and bladder and pelvic floor muscles. As they age, geriatrics see stiffer and fibrotic tissue replace the muscle fibers in the bladder, resulting in urinary incontinence. common incontinence conditions in geriatrics include:
- Stress incontinence causes urine to leak when sneezing, coughing, laughing, exercising, lifting heavy objects, etc.
- Urge incontinence causes older adults to feel the sudden urge to urinate, often leading to urinating involuntarily. They may also have the urge to urinate throughout the night.
- Overflow incontinence can cause geriatrics to urinate frequently because their bladders don’t empty entirely.
- Functional incontinence is likely caused by mental or physical impairment making it difficult for geriatrics to reach the toilet in time.
- Mixed incontinence is a combination of the different types mentioned above.
It’s essential for older adults experiencing incontinence to see a specialist to address the underlying causes of incontinence and manage the condition accordingly.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by difficulty in sleeping. People over 60 are more prone to develop insomnia, which can be due to several factors. The deteriorating medical and psychiatric condition can lead to insomnia in older adults. Too much lack of sleep can lead to impaired cognitive function, reduced immune function, and increased inflammation. There are five stages of sleep deprivation, namely:
- Stage 1 – 24 hours of no sleep: It is not uncommon or too problematic to go 24 hours without sleep. It may not cause major health problems, but it can make a person perpetually exhausted.
- Stage 2 – 36 hours of no sleep: Going 36 hours without sleep intensifies the symptoms of sleep deprivation, including causing microsleep lasting 30 seconds, impaired memory, behavioral changes, increased mistakes, impaired immune function, and extreme fatigue.
- Stage 3 – 48 hours of no sleep: Going 48 hours without sleep is considered extreme sleep deprivation. People begin experiencing severe exhaustion and more microsleeps, and geriatrics can begin having hallucinations causing them to have audio and visual hallucinations. Apart from the other symptoms, it can also lead to increased stress levels, heightened irritability, and anxiety.
- Stage 4 – 72 hours of no sleep: Going 72 hours without sleeping can cause geriatrics to see significant impairment in their perception. Besides the symptoms discussed above, they experience more frequent and longer microsleeps, delusions, and disorganized thought patterns.
- Stage 5 – 96 hours or longer without sleep: Someone awake for over 96 hours can begin experiencing sleep deprivation psychosis, causing them to become completely incapable of interpreting reality in addition to other symptoms.
Treating insomnia in older adults may involve prescribing medicine to induce sleep. However, healthcare providers typically prefer non-pharmacological treatments before relying on medication, including:
- Stimulus control: Going to bed only when they feel tired enough to sleep and getting out of bed if they spend over 20 minutes in bed without falling asleep.
- Sleep restriction: The doctor may recommend keeping a sleep diary to note sleeping habits and identify ways to improve sleep efficiency.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help older adults identify and address any incorrect perceptions they may have regarding sleep, helping them change their perspective to help them view sleep positively.
- Bright light therapy: Older adults who go to sleep early and wake up very early may be given timed exposure to bright light during the evening to help them stay awake during the evening and sleep later at night.
- Aerobic exercise: Regular aerobic exercise has been observed to improve sleep quality in older adults with insomnia. Exercise releases chemicals in the body that promote more restful sleep. Geriatrics with physical limitations can still find help through lighter aerobic exercises more suitable to their physical conditions.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects a person’s bones. The name of the condition comes from the Latin for “porous bones.” Human bones are not entirely solid. Instead, they have small honeycomb-like structures within. Osteoporosis causes the size of the tiny spaces to increase, in turn causing the bones to become less dense and weaker. The condition can affect anybody, but gerIatrics are likelier to develop the problem as they age.
It can be a debilitating condition because it increases the risk of fractures and severe injury if an older person with osteoporosis falls. Some of the best ways to prevent the condition or keep it from getting worse include:
- Getting the recommended daily intake of vitamin D and calcium
- Stop smoking
- Perform light weight training
- Hormone therapy may be a viable method to manage osteoporosis in aging women
There is an increased risk of hip and spinal fractures for someone with osteoporosis. If a patient is likely to develop osteoporosis, their family and caretakers must be careful and ensure a safe environment to prevent falls.
Effectively managing common geriatric conditions requires patients and their families to be proactive and involved in the best care practices. Patient education is one of the critical roles you will find yourself playing as a nurse. The more you know about their health concerns, the better you can help your patients achieve positive outcomes. And speaking of patient education, your continuing education is also crucial to delivering better care. Besides helping you recertify as a nurse, nursing continuing education courses can help you progress in your career.
Finding the right nursing continuing education courses to match your schedule and budget can be challenging. However, the cost-effective online nursing CEUs offered by Fast CE For Less at https://fastceforless.com/ce-courses-for-nursing/ can help you find the courses you need to take at your convenience.