Caring for elderly patients creates rich experiences. As a certified nursing assistant, you’d probably agree.
Older people undergo many changes in life. Physically, aging causes changes in strength, stamina, and function, often making them unable to do the things they used to. They may also have a chronic condition that causes pain and difficulties. Their family and friends could be living far away, or worse, have already passed away.
Although older people have, as they say, “survived the test of time,” this does not mean they feel happy and strong all the time. The many changes brought about by aging and illness can significantly affect their mood, so that they feel sad and frustrated at times, and can become cranky, overly sensitive, or just plain quiet and isolated as a result.
As CNAs get buried in a pile of tasks every day, they tend to focus on just getting the job done, with less regard for a patient's emotional state. Keeping elderly patients happy isn’t necessarily something that they include in their daily to-do list when, in fact, they really should.
And here is a simple reason why: happiness hormones have many positive effects on the body, and happiness contributes to wellbeing. Science has proven this many times over. Needless to say, keeping older people happy is part of caring.
So, what makes older patients happy? Read on, and make someone’s day today:
1. Ordinary circumstances, not big events
For most elderly clients, they would choose a simple gathering of family and close friends over a fancy trip to Las Vegas. Relationships seem to matter more as people near the last chapters of their lives. They prefer spending quality time with people they love and care about.
Therefore, what CNAs can do is encourage family members to visit and spend quality time with their loved one over lunch or dinner, or even a simple activity such as a backyard picnic.
Older people cherish good memories, and they feel happy when reminded of good old times and when they get to talk about such moments.
You may ask their family to bring photo albums, yearbooks, or small mementos of their younger years. As you perform care procedures such as combing your patient’s hair or changing their clothes, encourage them to talk about the photos in the album.
3. A sense of control and independence
Of all the circumstances that can zap a patient's happiness, losing the freedom to do what they want because of the limitations of their body and mind is often the most difficult. For this challenge, it’s a good idea to let the patient do things on their own, as long as they are safe.
4. Productive hobbies with friends
In general, it seems older people love to stay at home and are at peace even when alone. The result is that, unknowingly, they isolate themselves. Socializing with people they barely know becomes a lot less appealing than when they were younger.
In a nursing home, for example, a CNA could group together elderly patients with similar hobbies and let their interaction with each other grow naturally.
5. A sense of purpose
Help patients feel useful. Let them teach. Ask for their advice. Give them a task to accomplish. Ask about their favorite recipes. Go out of your way and bring your grandpa's old typewriter to work to show the patient who was once a writer. Reminding patients that they are still needed is a gift more valuable than gold.
Nursing assistants must be creative in finding ways to spark an older patient’s sense of purpose.
6. Meaningful conversation
Know your patient’s likes and dislikes and what their life was like before their diagnosis. Ask general questions, allowing them to elaborate. Talk less and listen more. Remember that the patient is the primary focus.
7. Staying connected to family and friend through technology
When older people struggle to use devices to communicate, help them reach out to their relatives and friends through emails, calls, text, or chat.
8. Their favorite music
This is a common-sense way that is very effective in making elderly patients happy. Music brings encourages good feelings and promotes relaxation, among many other benefits, so keep their playlists handy. An hour of Kenny Rogers' country songs might just be your ticket to seeing an older patient smile again!
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