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Gerontological nursing is the specialty of nursing pertaining to older adults. Gerontological nurses work in collaboration with older adults, their families, and communities to support healthy aging, maximum functioning, and quality of life. The term gerontological nursing, which replaced the term geriatric nursing in the 1970s, is seen as being more consistent with the specialty's broader focus on health and wellness, in addition to illness. Gerontological nursing is important to meet the health needs of an aging population. Due to longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates, the proportion of the population that is considered old is increasing. Between 2000 and 2050, the number of people in the world who are over age 60 is predicted increase from 605 million to 2 billion. The proportion of older adults is already high and continuing to increase in more developed countries. In 2010, seniors (aged 65 and older) made up 13% and 23% of the populations of the US and Japan, respectively. By 2050, these proportions will increase to 21% and 36%.
Gerontology nursing is a unique field in nursing which requires nurses to focus their care on older population. This population tend to have more comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions, etc. This field requires complex care to fulfil their needs. Nurses are to be mindful of their long history for individualized care. Nurses use evidence-based practice in their care to educate and promote well-being in gerontological population. Professional nursing involves the use of culturally competent care combined with scientific research to deliver clinical expertise. Geriatric nurses are expected to be skilled in-patient care, treatment planning, education, mental health, and rehabilitation. They also take on many roles in the workplace. The main responsibility is as a caregiver. They can also be advocates, counselors, and educators for their patients.
Gerontological nursing draws on knowledge about complex factors that affect the health of older adults. Older adults are more likely than younger adults to have one or more chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, hearing impairment, or a form of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. As well, drug metabolism changes with aging, adding to the complexity of health needs. There are many issues that arise as people age, which includes but are not limited to vision loss, hearing loss, dental issues, incontinence, and increased risk for falls. Gerontological nursing is complex and requires extensive interventions to keep the elderly safe. Nurses must be able to accommodate their patients for the vision loss, hearing loss, and dental issues. Elderly people with poor vision can be given reading materials with larger font, be provided with magnifying glasses, and brighter lighting. Interventions for hearing loss include finding a quiet place to talk among each other, speaking louder but not shouting, facing the person, speaking clearly, and providing gestures. Nursing may need to provide patients with dentures if teeth are missing to assist the patient in chewing their food. Incontinence care is crucial to preventing skin breakdown and skin infections such as candida albicans. Providing frequent incontinence care at least every two hours and skin barrier protection can decrease the chance of skin breakdown. Falls can cause fractures, hospitalizations, injuries, loss of independence, and possibly death. Many precautions can be implemented in preventing falls. Precautions include the elderly working with physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve balance, wearing supportive shoes, making sure the environment is conducive to safety such as reducing clutter on the floor and the floor is dry, ensuring the room is well lit, and other interventions.
Gerontological nurses work in a variety of settings, including acute care hospitals, rehabilitation, nursing homes (also known as long-term care homes and skilled nursing facilities), assisted living facilities, retirement homes, community health agencies, and the patient's home. The conditions of the geriatric patient's health determine what type of facility one should reside in. Assisted living facilities are also known as senior retirement homes, and they provide care services depending on health conditions. Skilled nursing, otherwise known as a nursing home, is a place where they can reside and get provided with 24/7 cares. Older adults have been referred to as "the core business of healthcare" by gerontological nursing experts. Population aging and the complexity of health care needs of some older adults means that older adults are more likely than younger people to use health care services. In many settings, the majority of patients are older adults. Thus, experts recommend that all nurses, not only those identified as gerontological nurses, need specialized knowledge about older adults. This position was endorsed by 55 US nursing specialty organizations.