To the Editor:
With the steady increase in the number of elders, nurses in practically all specialty areas will be caring for this age group. Are we prepared to take care of this influx of elderly patients?
It is obvious that nurses must be aware of the "unique" needs of the elderly so that they will not conform to the stereotypical myths that have been placed on this age group. In addition, we must remember that older people have the same basic needs as other adults.
In my clinical experience and recently during an evaluation of nursing care of the elderly, I witnessed many occasions in which the needs of elders were overlooked due to their age.
I remember vividly Mr. H who wanted to be anywhere else but in a hospital. At 79 years of age, he had never been hospitalized before. During his stay in the hospital, he had been placed on bathroom privileges with assistance only, started on intravenous infusions, and a Foley catheter had been inserted. Unfortunately, the nursing staff viewed him as "demanding" and referred to him as a "problem patient."
After speaking to Mr. H, I quickly discovered that he lived alone in his own home and had been a very independent person until this hospitalization. That answered it! Mr. H was frustrated because he was no longer in control. He couldn't even go to the bathroom without assistance. To top it off, the nurses on this particular unit didn't understand why Mr. H was so "demanding." If they had just taken a moment out of their busy schedule or even conversed with Mr. H while performing nursing tasks, perhaps they would have understood what Mr. H was going through.
Of course, one may say that's only one example, but it's one too many. There are other occasions that I recall . Seventy-year-old Mrs. S was alert, oriented, and on a regular diet; however, she very seldom had the opportunity to select her meal menus. Why? The nurses found it easier and quicker to do it themselves rather than consult the patient. Here again, something that seemed so miniscule to the nurses actually interfered with Mrs. S's ability to remain in control.
On many occasions, patients were given a total bath when all that was necessary was a partial bath. Again, it was quicker for the nurse to do the entire bath. Also, some nurses didn't realize the importance of allowing and encouraging the patient to remain independent.
I am very aware of the stressful and heavy workload that is placed on nurses, especially during this present "nurse shortage." However, I believe that an individual's basic need to remain independent should be honored and encouraged as much as possible by caregivers.