Tb the editor:
I am responding to the article by Dr. Terri Brower, "Do Nurses Stereotype the Aged" in the January 1985 issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.
I find it devastating that nurses who spend the most time with the elderly have the least favorable attitudes toward them.
Nursing homes fight an almost constant battle against a poor image and if the trend Brower describes continues, it will be a fight that will never be won. I strongly encourage nursing directors to start today to not only screen RN and LPN applicants carefully, but also start educational programs that are constructive in changing poor attitudes. When interviewing prospective nurses, we need to take the time to ask them questions concerning their own aging process to find out if growing older is something they accept or resist. If nursing applicants cannot accept their own aging, they most certainly will not be able to accept the aged person for whom they are caring.
Also, Dr. Brower 's article made me realize the extreme importance of education, not only for the nursing student, but also for the practicing nurse and nursing assistant. As directors we need, first and foremost, to look at our own attitudes about aging and the aged. If we look at the sick elderly, see our future selves, and are convinced that this is what senescence will be for us, we need to do some serious soul searching for the sake of those in our care and on our nursing staff. However, if we accept aging as normal and are preparing now for our retirement years so that they can be fulfilling and worthwhile, we have a responsibility to pass our positive attitude on to our staff.
We need to provide the opportunity for our nursing staffs to attend in-service education programs on attitudes and the elderly that in turn, could lead to more compassionate and empathetic care.
Finally, we need to learn from the elderly in our care. They can tell us a great deal about how they are treated and perceived by those who care for them. We need to allow them the opportunity to talk about the care they receive and to report any negative attitudes that are expressed toward them.
I think Dr. Brower is to be commended for her excellent article. However, her time and effort is wasted unless we, as nursing directors, are willing to accept the fact that we have a serious attitudinal problem either within ourselves, our nursing staff, or both. Now is the time to take a serious look at attitudes. The physical care we give may be excellent, but if we continue to stereotype the people for whom we are caring, then our humanistic care is amiss. Without a holistic concept of care - a system of care that considers the elderly a whole person with not only physical needs, but also social, psychological and spiritual needs - then we are only giving partial care to those who deserve so much more.