The skills that are required when working in aged care are very diverse. The essential attributes are having empathy for older people and their carers, being a good listener and having patience. Being a good listener means that you will understand that the clients have the right to make their own decisions and voice their discomforts and family concerns. If you have empathy, then you will be willing to work with the client to fix any concerns and make the client feel comfortable and worthwhile.
Work may involve working with grief and loss and managing chronic illness, wounds care and incontinence. It can also include palliative care when the clients are at the end of their life.
Nurses working in aged care need to be astute in their observation of the elderly and be always assessing their health status and functions. Nurses need to be able to analyse data so they can know when it is time to consult with the other multidisciplinary team members. They need to be aware of their own practice, be able to maintain the proper documentation and work with a legal and ethical framework. The skills needed in aged care centre around ongoing and effective communication. Nurses must be trained in injury prevention and general care for wellbeing.
When it comes to working with frail adults, there is a collaborative process that involves the clients, their families and the multidisciplinary team. The clients need to be involved in decisions that are concerning their healthcare. When the time comes that they are unable to, if they have a cognitive disability or are too frail, then their families must take over the decision making.
Frail elderly clients need to be supported by different carers. These can be siblings, neighbours, friends and spouses. These carers can sometimes be frail themselves so they will need advice and support from healthcare nurses as their role can be very demanding. It may come to the point where community care may need to be an option if caring for the client becomes too much. There are respite services available if carers need a break or they become unwell.
Aged care nurses often become familiar with their clients, and they can often prevent and predict some behavioural problems that can come with elderly illnesses like dementia. These patients can be vulnerable, so steps for fall prevention and care should be carried out. There are also environmental issues that can have an impact on their sense of comfort and security that many dementia patients go through.
The skin is the biggest organ of the body, and it goes through enormous changes as we age. When the skin matures the healthy barrier that protects from temperature, infection and water regulation becomes affected, and the elderly become more prone to friction, moisture and trauma.
The incidence of pressure injuries, leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and skin tears will increase significantly with age, and it is a severe issue for the elderly. Once the skin starts breaking down, healing in clients will be slowed as the skin has a reduced ability to regenerate, and the immune system is reduced. Aged care nurses need to be trained in wound care, as these types of wounds need to be cared for promptly and accurately. Maintaining skin integrity is vital for caring for the elderly. You need to have the ability to recognise the factors that will impact on the healing process of wounds so you can then take steps to remove those factors or minimise their impact if possible.
It is gratifying working in aged care; however, it isn’t for everyone. There is also a lot of training that you need to go through, including wound care, dementia care and medication training.