In older people’s nursing one size does not fit all

Older people were all young once and often have unique stories to tell.

Older people were all young once and often have unique stories to tell

Picture: iStock


It is wonderful that, in our society, many more people live longer and remain active in later life.

At the same time, however, older age may result in complex physical and mental health needs.

Frailty, long-term conditions and social isolation are common in people aged over 75.

Our professional code requires all nurses and midwives to treat people as individuals, and to uphold their dignity by showing kindness, respect and compassion.

This includes older people, and herein lies a challenge: nurses upholding the dignity of older people with complex care needs must avoid assuming they are a homogeneous group.

How do they do this? By remembering that older people are individuals with diverse life experiences.

Two patients may have the same diagnosis, but finding out more about them as unique individuals enables nurses to see beyond the labels of illness or condition and value them as people.

Simple questions

In my practice I make time to ask older patients about their previous jobs, places they have lived and lifestyles they have led.

Asking these simple questions helps patients to see that I take an interest in them as people and acknowledging their self-worth.

The answers they give may also reveal areas of common ground and similar interests, which can make subsequent interactions less stressful and perhaps even enjoyable.

Prioritising people and treating them with respect are fundamental aspects of professional nursing practice.

In primary and secondary care settings that are under seemingly relentless pressure, this can present challenges, but it need not be complicated.

About the author

Donato_TalloDonato Tallo is a nurse assessor in the hospital intervention team at Eastbourne District General Hospital


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