Our continuing professional development (CPD) articles are designed to assist with your nursing skills and practice.
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.
This article draws on a range of case study examples from dementia care and explains how ethical theory can be applied to enhance professional practice. Ethical concepts are critically examined in this context and tensions between them are explored. The article demonstrates how an established ethical framework can assist with application in practice situations. It also argues that cultivating virtues, such as courage and receptivity, is an essential aspect of providing ethical nursing care for people with dementia.
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.
A venous leg ulcer (VLU) is defined as the loss of skin below the knee on the leg or foot in the presence of venous disease, which takes more than two weeks to heal. The prevalence of VLUs is increasing, especially in older people, which will increase the demand for nursing care. Development of a lower leg ulcer should trigger immediate assessment of risk factors for chronic venous disease followed by action to identify the cause and initiate treatment, which should prevent progression to more complex and chronic problems. Justification for choice of appropriate wound management and application of compression therapy should be based on the assessment and diagnosis. Management of patients with VLUs can be cyclical and lifelong, which highlights the importance of helping patients to understand the rationale for management strategies so that cooperation in self-care is achieved.
This article aims to assist nurses and nursing students to consider the presentation of delirium in older patients and the resulting assessment and nursing interventions required. It considers the three types of delirium: hyperactive, hypoactive and mixed. It also discusses potential causes of delirium. Older patients are at increased risk of delirium due to factors such as cognitive impairment, co-morbidities and acute illness. Nurses should be confident in the use of the 4AT score to assess patients with delirium. Use of the mnemonic PINCH ME is suggested to guide management of delirious patients in acute settings. Families of patients with delirium have emotional and other care needs and there are several ways in which nurses can meet them.
Pain is a diverse, individual experience and is associated with distress and suffering. Uncontrolled acute pain has been linked to delayed recovery and prolonged hospital stay. Nurses have a duty of care to their patients and acute pain management is integral to this. However, acute pain in older people can be difficult to manage, often because of under-reporting or difficulties in assessment. Older people have altered physiology often compounded by multiple co-morbidities and polypharmacy, all of which affect the appropriateness of, and available, pharmacological pain management strategies. In addition, older people are at greater risk of adverse drug reactions, drug interactions and side effects from analgesia. Consequently, non-pharmacological strategies should also be integral to pain management.
Pressure ulcers are painful, and affect patients’ health, mobility and well-being. They also cost the NHS between £1.4-2.1 billion a year. Although a large proportion of pressure ulcers are avoidable, many still occur and, because pressure ulcer incidence is an indicator of care quality, it can put carers under scrutiny. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence states that adequate risk assessment of pressure ulcer development, including the role of malnutrition, improves care. Adequate nutrition is vital for the prevention of pressure ulcers and malnutrition can hinder healing when pressure ulcers have developed. The risk of malnutrition should be assessed with a recognised tool, such as the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool, and appropriate treatment plans should be drawn up for patients identified as being at risk of malnutrition to improve their nutritional state. For example, the dietary intake of people with poor appetite can be supplemented with nutritious snacks between meals. The aims of this article are to help readers understand risk factors for malnutrition and how dietary intake can be manipulated to improve patients’ nutritional state. It also aims to highlight how improving nutritional intake helps to prevent pressure ulcers. On completing the article, readers will be able to consider and review their own practice.