Determining Quality of Life in Elder Care

The needs of the growing elderly community are complex and require specialized training. Central to providing this type of care is identifying the quality of life in elderly patients.

Caregivers and nurses must consider several elements when evaluating the realistic quality of life expectations for older patients who often suffer from several chronic conditions. Unfortunately, for many of these disorders, a “cure” is not an option. However, appropriate care is a key factor for managing these disorders and assisting with daily tasks to enable older adults to age at home.

Knowing what older adults find important in life is necessary to align the goals of care services to their expectations. Also, knowing what quality of life is from the perspective of older adults themselves is required to accurately assess the validity of existing quality of life measures.

The Process of Elder Care

How health affects quality of life is subjective and variable. Health-related quality of life has multiple aspects, including:

  • Absence of distressing physical symptoms (pain, dyspnea, nausea, constipation)
  • Emotional well-being (happiness, absence of anxiety)
  • Physical and cognitive functional status (capacity to do activities of daily living and higher-order functions, such as pleasurable activities)
  • Quality of close interpersonal relationships (with family members, friends)
  • Participation in and enjoyment of social activities
  • Satisfaction with medical and financial aspects of treatments
  • Sexuality, body image and intimacy

It can be difficult for healthcare and nurse practitioners to determine the variables affecting quality of life for elderly individuals because there can be multiple factors at play. For example:

  • Such an assessment is not always taught or emphasized sufficiently in traditional medical education, which tends to focus on diagnosis and prolongation of life.
  • Quality of life is a subjective, individual experience — so decision models cannot be applied to individual patients.
  • Assessing the patient’s perspectives on quality of life takes time. It requires thoughtful conversations between patients and healthcare practitioners. There often is not enough time for these in-depth conversations during traditional fee-for-service-based healthcare delivery methods.

To facilitate better delivery of appropriate healthcare, it is essential to assess Health-related Quality of Life (HrQoL) and do so over time. Factors such as daily activities, depression, symptom burden and change in symptom burden over time are important indicators for HrQoL.

Interactions Between Nurses and Patients

These standards impact the interactions nurses have with patients — because a geriatric nurse must ensure the patient is being cared for in the right ways. Care and support for older adults living at home should improve or maintain QoL, especially the QoL domains they value.

Many patients want to feel as if they can still do basic activities alone without guidance or help from a nurse. This allows them to still have their freedom but also have someone who is willing to help when a drastic situation occurs.

Older adults start to feel inadequate when they can no longer perform basic tasks on their own. Therefore, nurses need to console them and convey that they still have value within society.

Nurses should treat elders with compassion and empathy. They can learn a lot from their older patients. But, for these patients to open up, they need to feel safe in the presence of their caretakers.

Forming bonds with patients is one of the most beneficial aspects of elder care because it solidifies a sense of familiarity among nurses and patients and contributes to the older person’s sense of safety.

Deliver Quality of Life Care With an MSN Degree

One way to uplevel your quality of life care as a nurse is to further your career in specialty areas and earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online program at Youngstown State University (YSU) will learn to care for adults with complex and chronic conditions in high acuity and specialty areas.

In as few as 18 months, students will be prepared to provide comprehensive and holistic care to culturally diverse, acutely and chronically ill populations. Graduates of this program will learn clinical manifestations of, and patient response to, particular patient care challenges (pulmonary, cardiovascular, etc.). Instruction includes an emphasis on physical assessment findings for determining diagnoses, planning patient care needs, as well as health promotion and maintenance.

Each future adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner will obtain the knowledge to care for their patients with compassion while also becoming a better nurse.

Learn more about YSU’s MSN – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online program.

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