There is nothing new about the geriatric nursing field, however it is currently among the fastest growing nursing specialties. Its major goal is providing care for elderly patients, including both their psychological and physical needs, which may include providing education on preventative care, managing chronic illness, assisting them with learning to adapt to their limitations and being responsive to aging patient common conditions, like dementia and depression.
Since health care has taken a major turn towards being a preventative medical model instead of a sick model, it has become an important goal to to help the elderly remain as independent and healthy as possible. Over the next decade it is projected that individuals over 80 years old will be the fasting growing population, meaning the demand will skyrocket for those healthcare practitioners who specialize in older Americans’ specific needs.
It is possible to get involved with geriatric care working as an LPN or RN in hospice facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitative centers, hospitals and as a home health care nurse at an elderly person’s home.
As you continue with your nursing career, you will have many different opportunities for further specialization in gerontology ranging from earning a certificate to obtaining an advanced practice or master’s degree. For instance, you could explore becoming a geriatric clinical nurse specialist. Another possibility is earning your degree to be a geriatric nurse practitioner if advanced practice is something that interests you. Nurses who hold geriatric nursing doctoral degrees are in very high demand for filling faculty positions to further educate new generations of nurses. There is an overall big demand for geriatric nurses, and by specializing, you will be able to advance your career and even help to lead the gerontology field as it continues to grow and evolve.
Geriatric care provides many opportunities for nurses beyond just hospitals. One really good place to find both long and short term nursing opportunities is nursing homes. Nurses may provide rehabilitative care for those patients who have suffered a stroke or have complications from injuries or falls. Nurses in nursing homes also provide general restorative care following surgery or an illness.
One of the newer aspects of geriatric nursing is providing the aging population with fitness and wellness services and education. A nurse in this role educates patients as well as their families on appropriate sleep patters, exercise, nutrition and preventative care methods for easing age-related injuries and general wear and tear.
Home health care services offer nurses with opportunities for caring for patients in their homes, and to manage chronic conditions and complete assessments. This field has also expanded so that younger populations are also included, but most patients need someone who is skilled in providing the elderly with care.
End-of-life and palliative care naturally fit in with geriatric nursing (this category can also include hospice care). Nurses who work in this area help the elderly maintain their quality of life, allowing them to die free of pain as well as other symptoms and with dignity. Patients who need this kind of care might be suffering from various conditions including: general debility, renal failure, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
You might not immediately think of psychiatric nursing as being part of geriatric care, however the elderly have unique needs for psychological care in addition to physical care. Many aging patients suffer from depression. Illnesses like Alzheimer’s, as well as other kinds of dementia, may lead to such psycho-social symptoms as combativeness, sundowning, hallucinations and anxiety. To manage them they all need to have nursing interventions and specialized pharmacology.
Case management plays a huge role in geriatric care. It involves assisting patients as well as their families with making long term care plans and gaining access to various community resources. Although it was once viewed as being more of a social worker role, geriatric nurses are able to provide value insight into the condition, and provide education regarding preventative measures, care, medications, symptoms and signs.