The role of nurse practitioners in care for the elderly

Wellness is critical for elderly patients. The downside of the lengthened lifespans we see thanks to improved public health and advanced medical treatment techniques is the increased need for care as we age. Nurse practitioners can support the elderly and help to improve their general well-being and quality of life.

Why are nurse practitioners the healthcare provider of choice for elderly patients?

Talking to a doctor is often people’s first step when seeking medical help. For certain issues, however, other professionals might be more helpful, depending on the nature of the care required. Nurse practitioners, for example, are often considered the best choice for managing chronic conditions

Nurse practitioners can provide care for both acute and chronic conditions. Acute care nurse practitioner programs exist, such as the course offered by Baylor University, to provide nurses with an education that equips them to both aid and even replace doctors when it comes to acute care. For example, nurse practitioners frequently provide care for those with chronic conditions, often the elderly.

Furthermore, nurse practitioners are typically more “available” to their patients than doctors. Nurse practitioners tend to build strong relationships with their patients, which allows them to effectively deliver health education. This often makes them the better choice when it comes to providing ongoing care for chronic conditions. 

How nurse practitioners promote good health among elderly patients

Nurse practitioners are often the first line of defense between waning health and declining quality of life among elderly patients. They are critical to their overall health and well-being. There are a few reasons for this beyond those we’ve outlined above. This section will take a closer look at how nurse practitioners can encourage patients to maintain good health as they age. 

Dispel myths

Over time, misconceptions about the aging process have become “fact” in the minds of many patients. For example, it is an accepted belief that loss of memory and cognitive decline comes with aging. The truth, however, is that many patients can maintain good cognitive function as they age. Getting older is not a death sentence for active minds. 

It is easy to accept that cognitive decline is a natural and normal part of the aging process because that is what society has taught us to believe. Cognitive decline in old age is not a given, however, and if society begins to adopt the belief that it is avoidable, we can start to take measures to prevent it. 

Due to medical advances, we now know more about the human mind than ever. We better understand the aging process and are familiar with how aging impacts the mind. While some patients do ultimately develop serious cognitive issues as they age, many do not. Most patients can maintain their normal cognitive function for many years longer than they might assume. 

Nurse practitioners not only have this knowledge, but they also have the ability to communicate it effectively with patients. As previously mentioned, nurse practitioners are often the provider of choice for chronic health conditions in part because they are better able to educate their patients. Nurse practitioners can help dispel myths about cognitive and physical decline to their elderly patients and ensure they maintain their quality of life as they age. 

Perform comprehensive health evaluations

Another way nurse practitioners help promote health and wellness in their elderly patients is by providing comprehensive health evaluations. Catching potential problems early is one of the best ways to help prevent serious health and cognitive declines. That’s why one of the key aspects of nursing is performing health assessments often. More specifically, nurse practitioners often provide easily understandable comprehensive health evaluations. 

Because they often interact more closely with their patients than traditional physicians, nurse practitioners are also often more in tune with the specific needs of their community. For example, a nurse might know better than a doctor whether their patients typically speak English, or if another language is more common. Effective nurse practitioners take this knowledge and turn it into an actionable plan. They can help build care routines that use a patient’s native language to provide care and address their cultural healthcare needs. 

Beyond this, nurse practitioners also tend to keep better track of patients’ long-term needs than physicians. This better enables them to keep tabs on increasing fall risks, impaired cognitive function, and changing living situations that might compound health concerns in the elderly. 

Focus on mental and physical health

Elderly patients must have access to healthcare that considers both their physical and mental well-being when providing health education. Nurse practitioners can help provide holistic care for elderly patients to improve both physical and mental health outcomes. By providing nutrition tips and exercise suggestions and helping patients build effective sleep schedules and creating strategies to keep their minds engaged, nurse practitioners can keep their patients happy, healthy, and engaged as they go through the aging process.

Wrapping up

Are you interested in learning more about how nurse practitioners can help patients? Keep the information above in mind as you search! There is always an opportunity to learn more about what nurse practitioners do, as well as taking on additional healthcare education yourself.