Our continuing professional development (CPD) articles are designed to assist with your nursing skills and practice.
Exploring the implications of increased longevity and how this is linked to type 2 diabetes
This article defines sexual health and explores the changes people experience in later life
Newcastle Model’s biopsychosocial framework is revisited to understand the caregiving context
Nurses need to be aware of the risk factors and identify at-risk patients
Clinicians do not always recognise depression in older people as they attribute symptoms to the ageing process and the effects of failing health. Similarly, older people do not always appreciate that their symptoms relate to their mood. Understanding how depression affects older people can improve access to support, thereby improving overall health and quality of life. To ensure these outcomes we need a workforce with excellent communication skills that supports therapeutic relationships, promotes recognition of symptoms, and enhances assessment, diagnosis, treatment and management.
How nurses can have a positive effect on the lives of people with COPD
Nurses can overcome communication barriers through thoughtful interventions
There is little doubt that opiates have transformed healthcare, particularly in relation to pain management. However, many patients prescribed this type of drug develop problems such as dependency. Although we do not know how many older people have developed such problems due to opiate use we know that some will. It is important for nurses to understand the context in which opiates are used, as well as the specific needs of older people and how to respond to them.
Case study examples of challenging ethical situations that might be encountered
Sexuality is as important in older age as it is throughout life, and its expression can be positive, empowering, joyful and life-affirming. The concept of sexuality has many dimensions including identity, need and desire, relationships and behaviour, all of which develop through ageing and life experiences. The evidence on all aspects of sexuality in later life tends to focus on biological dysfunction rather than fulfilment, well-being and quality of life, and does not acknowledge the enormous diversity of older people in terms of age, sexualities, ethnicity and culture. However, the evidence base is growing and, in broad terms, what older people want is becoming more clearly articulated. This article acknowledges the current evidence and, building on this, suggests ways in which nurses working in health and social care services can address some of the challenges, enhance their own understanding and skills, and work creatively with older individuals to offer services that help them to live, and end, their lives according to their individual identities, choices and deepest, most personal, priorities.
Skin changes associated with age are inevitable. Ageing is associated with structural and functional changes of the skin that result in increased vulnerability. The most common functional skin changes are dryness (xerosis), which causes itching and discomfort, and skin fragility, increasing patients’ vulnerability to skin damage. Dry skin and itching have a significant effect on older people, which can be further exacerbated by products used for washing and bathing. The management of dry skin and itching is fundamental to older people’s care and nurses should act in their best interests to ensure that the potential for skin damage is addressed. However, many older people are often reluctant to discuss the problem, are embarrassed and will self-treat or try to hide an underlying problem such as incontinence or worries about being infectious or dirty. This can be challenging when managing their skin care because of under-reporting, self-medicating or the assumption that it is ‘just old age’.
Faecal incontinence is an impaired ability to control the passage of stool, often described as involuntary loss of solid or liquid stool, and the symptom of an underlying diagnosis. It is a common problem in older adults. Although not a life-threatening condition, it can have a significant negative effect on an individual’s quality of life and adverse medical, social and economic consequences. Due to the taboo and stigmatising nature of the condition many individuals do not seek assistance. Healthcare professionals should take every opportunity to ask about faecal incontinence symptoms so that symptomatic relief and treatment interventions can be initiated. There are several conservative approaches available for the treatment of faecal incontinence, which should be considered as first line to target symptomatic relief.