As people grow older, they are prone to experiencing changes in their physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being, which can impact their mental health. Extensive research by NCBQ has shown that mental health issues are prevalent among older adults, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and dementia.
Geriatric nurses are vital in promoting positive mental health among senior adults, as they are often the primary healthcare professionals who engage with this population regularly.
By implementing various strategies and interventions, nurses can assist aging adults in maintaining good mental health and overall quality of life.
Today, we will explore six strategies nurses can use to support their senior patients in maintaining good mental health and enhancing their quality of life.
Importance Of Trained Geriatric Nurses:
The advancement of science and technology has led to a notable rise in the average life expectancy of the general population. Consequently, there has been a significant increase in the elderly population in various countries.
For example, according to Statista, approximately 16.9 percent of the American population was 65 years or older in 2020, and it is projected to reach 22 percent by the year 2050.
This demographic shift has resulted in a growing demand for geriatric nurses who specialize in caring for older patients. Geriatric nurses are crucial in promoting positive health outcomes among senior adults.
They conduct comprehensive assessments of patients’ needs, create individualized care plans, administer medications, monitor vital signs, and provide invaluable emotional support.
Moreover, these nurses receive specialized training to effectively identify and manage mental health issues such as depression, dementia, and feelings of isolation.
To meet the increasing demand for geriatric nurses, many universities have offered online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner programs designed specifically for registered nurses.
Online programs have gained popularity among nurses, particularly those already employed, as they allow them to pursue advanced degrees while continuing their work as registered nurses.
The coursework typically covers gerontology nursing, community health nursing, and pathophysiology, equipping nurses with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide effective care for older patients.
With that said, let’s look at the six ways that can help nurses improve mental health in senior adults:
1. Encourage Social Engagement:
As social beings, humans thrive in a community setting, and this holds particularly true for older adults who, as supported by recent studies, often experience feelings of loneliness regularly.
The impact of isolation on the elderly population can be profound and detrimental to their mental health and overall well-being.
To counteract these negative emotions, socialization plays a vital role by providing opportunities for engagement, interaction, and support. Geriatric nurses are instrumental in helping patients by actively encouraging socialization.
They can achieve this by facilitating group activities that foster connections, promoting participation in community programs, and connecting patients with resources and services that enable social engagement.
For instance, nurses may organize group exercise classes, hobby groups tailored to specific interests, or discussion groups to facilitate meaningful interactions among elderly patients.
Additionally, they can motivate patients to participate in local community events or explore volunteer opportunities to engage with the outside world.
By actively encouraging socialization, geriatric nurses help combat loneliness and isolation among older adults and enhance their overall mental health and well-being.
2. Offer Emotional Support
Older adults commonly encounter a range of emotional hurdles, including feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. In these cases, emotional support can help them overcome negative emotions.
Nurses play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges by providing essential emotional support.
By fostering a safe space where seniors feel heard and understood, nurses can help alleviate their emotional burdens. This connection facilitates a sense of connection and reduces feelings of isolation among older adults.
When patients perceive their concerns and feelings are valued, they are likelier to open up and share their deepest worries and emotions.
Moreover, emotional support goes beyond just listening. Nurses can employ therapeutic techniques tailored to each patient’s needs, such as relaxation exercises, coping strategies, and stress management guidance.
These interventions further contribute to addressing emotional challenges and promoting the positive mental health of older adults.
3. Promote Physical Activity
Physical function tends to decline with age, leading to negative health outcomes. Studies by Human Kinetics have reported that regular exercise can counteract these effects by improving physical function, mood, and overall mental health.
These positive impacts on mental health include reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety while boosting cognitive function.
Geriatric nurses can promote physical activity by educating patients about its benefits, helping them set realistic goals, and providing guidance on suitable exercises and activities. Many senior adults hesitate to exercise due to their aging bones and joints.
Take baby steps and encourage regular exercise through daily walks, chair exercises, or other basic physical activities. Doing this will help prevent unnecessary accidents and ultimately lead seniors toward a happier and healthier lifestyle.
4. Educate Them On Healthy Habits
Educating older adults about healthy habits is crucial to managing their health challenges effectively. Geriatric nurses can play a vital role in supporting seniors by promoting beneficial practices like maintaining a nutritious diet, establishing regular sleep patterns, and implementing stress reduction techniques.
Nurses empower older adults to take charge of their mental and physical well-being by providing valuable education and resources on these healthy habits. This includes spreading awareness about nutrition, exercise, and socializing.
Help them understand how these practices will help them become healthier and start incorporating them into their daily life.
This proactive approach allows seniors to maintain their independence and reduce their reliance on healthcare services, benefiting both the patients and the nurses caring for them.
5. Conduct Depression Screening
Senior adults often face significant life changes, such as losing loved ones, declining health, and shifts in their social support networks. These transitions can increase the risk of depression, underscoring the importance of early identification and intervention for improved patient outcomes.
According to research by the World Health Organization, approximately 10% of older adults experience depressive symptoms, with only a fraction receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
This shows the significance of diligent screening and proactive identification of depression among the elderly population.
Geriatric nurses use various methods to screen elderly patients for depression, including screening tools, open discussions about mood and emotions, and careful observation of behavioral changes and emotional well-being.
By implementing these measures, nurses can play a pivotal role in enhancing mental health outcomes in older adults.
Nurses play a critical role in enhancing the mental health of older adults. By deeply understanding the unique needs and challenges aging individuals face, nurses can provide specialized and attentive care that improves their physical and psychological well-being.
As the aging population expands, the demand for geriatric nursing becomes increasingly significant. Therefore, nurses need to prioritize the mental health needs of their elderly patients.
By providing the necessary support to elderly patients, nurses can empower them to experience a fulfilling and gratifying life while maintaining positive mental health throughout their later years.