No burden: why we must reframe the view of nursing older people

With an increasingly ageing population, nursing older people demands greater recognition as a specialty as we strive to improve care for this complex cohort

With an increasingly ageing population, nursing older people demands greater recognition as a specialty
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I’m incredibly proud to be writing this editorial as consultant editor of Nursing Older People. Not only is it a respected and valued journal, but also the very existence of the journal validates older person’s nursing status as a specialism. The lack of acknowledgement of our specialty is incredible, given that the provision of high-quality health and social care services for an increasingly ageing population is recognised as an international challenge.

Older people have complex biopsychosocial needs

We face significant obstacles: society places less value on older people and media reports describing older people as a burden on health and social care do nothing to challenge such ageist perceptions.

We know this is only part of the story. As a mental health nurse who specialises in dementia care and older people's health, I have worked in various settings across four decades. During this time, I have become acutely aware of the increasingly complex biopsychosocial needs of this cohort, and I have witnessed a withdrawal of services to meet their needs – and omissions in the services that still exist.

Current policy rhetoric acknowledges that there is a need to shift the focus from treating and managing numerous diseases and symptoms to interventions that optimise an older person’s quality of life by adopting a more integrated, person-centred approach. However, providing effective person- and relationship-centred care to older people is complex work that requires a whole breadth of skills and knowledge that generalists may feel ill-equipped to deliver.

Our specialty deserves greater recognition

To ensure we have a competent and compassionate workforce, there is a need to change the way in which caring for older people is taught and valued.

I want to use this new role to enable more of you to share the incredible work that you are doing so that we can continue to challenge the myths and misconceptions about our profession and continue to develop the evidence base and improve outcomes for older people and their families. My aim is that in the coming months and years together we can strive towards gaining the recognition that older person’s nursing deserves.

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