5 Nursing Skills for Senior Care

NursingMay 19, 2014

The aging Baby Boomer generation has created the need for many careers in the field of geriatrics. Nursing jobs in this specialty are found in a variety of settings, including senior care facilities, hospitals, and assisted living homes, in addition to community health centers and home health agencies. As these patients have unique challenges and needs, special nursing skills are required so you can provide them with optimal care.

Communication Skills

You may work with elderly patients who are hearing impaired or unable to process information as quickly as the general populace. Speak to these patients loudly and slowly, and be willing to patiently repeat until they hear or understand. Stick to one topic at a time to avoid confusion and information overload. Use short, simple sentences and write down instructions. Allow extra time to communicate, and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Listen to them carefully.


You will need a lot of patience in the field of geriatric nursing. The elderly may have difficulty retaining information and need to be reminded of things frequently. They will also need more time to respond because their bodies move more slowly. These patients can become upset easily and may not be as polite as they were when they were younger, so react to any unpleasantness in a calm manner.

Ability to Cope with Death

In your role of a senior care nurse, you may be with many patients when their life ends. You will need to have the emotional fortitude to deal with the sadness and feelings of loss while providing care and services. These situations are encountered in every setting where the elderly receive health care.

Critical Thinking and Mental Flexibility

While you need critical thinking and mental flexibility in any nursing specialty, they are even more important in geriatrics. You will need to discern whether a symptom is related to the normal aging process or if it is due to illness. Another difficulty is that manifestations of disease in the elderly can be atypical. For example, a 90-year-old person with a urinary tract infection may display a change in mental function rather than the usual symptoms of burning and the inability to empty the bladder. Critical thinking will help you identify the problem and develop an appropriate treatment plan to address it.

Focus on Preventive Care

Since the elderly are more prone to illness and injury, your focus as a geriatric nurse will be on preventive care. A treatment plan will include measures to avoid problems such as falls and bedsores along with dehydration and malnutrition. You may also instruct a patient's caretaker or family in how to prevent the occurrence of these issues.

The aging process affects people in many ways that have to be considered in the health care system. Although special nursing skills are needed, your education and training will equip you for them. You will find fulfillment as your efforts maximize and protect the health of your patients as well as prolong their independence and improve their quality of life.

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