Many registered nurses move on to get degrees in specialisms, such as geriatric medicine, because they have an interest in the field and, with advanced education and certification, they can work autonomously without the supervision of a physician. One such degree is the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) program, which prepares students to work with elderly patients and explores topics such as understanding the aging process, managing chronic disease, mobility, cognitive health adaptations, preventative care, health screenings as well as other areas specific to gerontology. Other topics within geriatrics include end-of-life care, palliative care and geriatric pharmacology. Covering such topics guides students toward developing the necessary skills to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to geriatric patients.
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The aging process
The aging process can be confusing and scary for some older patients who are not willing to believe that certain issues they are experiencing are a part of getting older. Nurse practitioners are trained in understanding the aging process as well as the physiological, psychological and social changes that may occur in and for older adults. These medical professionals are experienced in dealing with patients in a compassionate and empathetic manner, and they can educate patients on common health concerns and conditions that occur in aging patients. They can give this information in a gentle and understandable way, so their patients feel at ease. Geriatric nurse practitioners studying for their post-master’s degree learn about age-related cognitive decline, sensory changes and the psychosocial aspects of aging that can present challenges for their patients. This knowledge is crucial in delivering effective, holistic and patient-centered care to geriatric patients.
Through the program, nurse practitioners will learn how to conduct geriatric assessments and create treatment plans that are tailor-made for their patients. They will also learn to manage complex health issues that typically occur in older patients. Clinical hours will teach these advanced students how to collaborate with other members of the medical team, as well as the patients themselves. Applying evidence-based practices for geriatric care and honing a patient-centered approach also helps students prioritize the overall well-being and quality of care for aging people.
Managing chronic disease
When studying for a post-master’s degree in gerontology, students will learn how to effectively manage chronic diseases in an aging population. The curriculum will often include comprehensive case studies on chronic conditions that are common among the elderly, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Important aspects of understanding these diseases include learning about disease prevention, early intervention and early detection, as well as which diagnostic tests are most effective in diagnosing the disease. These future nurse practitioners will gain insights into developing tailor-made treatment plans, as well as ways to provide education on healthy lifestyles. By implementing a holistic approach, nurse practitioners can monitor the patient while collaborating with other members of the medical team to ensure the best management and control of the chronic condition. Nurse practitioners can provide compassionate care that addresses the specific needs of their elderly patients.
The post-master’s program helps nurse practitioners address mobility issues in elderly patients by teaching about age-related changes in neurological function, musculoskeletal deterioration and other physiological and psychological systems that may affect a person’s mobility. Students learn to conduct mobility assessments, identify risks for mobility impairment and create personalized treatment plans to help elderly patients with mobility issues. These treatment plans will consider the whole of the patient, such as their personal beliefs, abilities, support structure and cognitive abilities. Through holistic assessment, nurse practitioners can recommend techniques for individualized exercise programs and prescribe assistive devices to improve the mobility of older patients within their capabilities. Integrating these strategies into their practice allows future nurse practitioners to help elderly people improve their mobility and become more independent, enhancing their quality of life.
Cognitive health adaptation
The post-master’s program also helps nurse practitioners address cognitive health adaptation in the elderly population by including comprehensive education on cognitive changes that happen with aging. Areas such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are focused on, as they are common cognitive impairments that can drastically affect a patient’s mental and physical health. The program teaches nurse practitioners how to conduct cognitive assessments, identify early signs of cognitive decline and create personalized plans that focus on cognitive health adaptation. Areas such as cognitive stimulation, memory enhancement techniques and maintaining cognitive function through therapeutic interventions are all strategies students will learn to help elderly patients. Lifestyle modifications and family support are also factors that nurse practitioners will need to be educated in to help their elderly patients manage cognitive decline.
Students will also learn how to communicate with patients who are in a stage of cognitive decline and how to provide advice and support to family, friends and other caregivers who may be feeling frustrated or uneasy about their loved one’s cognitive deficiencies. Nurse practitioners can play a crucial role in promoting cognitive health and improving their patient’s quality of life, ensuring the well-being of their elderly patients.
Students who are interested in studying for an AGNP Post Master’s Certificate Online with an accredited school, such as Wilkes University, will learn about the importance of preventative treatments and which ones are suitable for their patients. Online programs are flexible enough for those students who are also working but want to enhance their education at the same time. The online programs offered by accredited schools teach students crucial areas of geriatric medicine, such as preventative treatments.
Preventative treatments are those healthcare measures that patients can take to reduce the risk of developing age-related health risks or minimize the symptoms of existing illnesses. Areas of study include health screenings, vaccinations and regular health assessments to identify the early stages of illnesses related to age. Students are taught to educate patients on healthy lifestyle modifications, stress management and how to identify symptoms of a bigger problem. Certain types of preventative treatments and measures for elderly patients include regular health check-ups and screenings for diabetes, cancer or hypertension. By routinely checking for high blood sugar, high cholesterol, blood pressure levels, and other signs of larger issues, elderly patients and nurse practitioners can deal with the symptoms before the issue becomes worse and needs more serious measures.
Vaccinations for illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, shingles and others are an example of how preventative treatment can provide protection and reduce the symptoms caused by potentially fatal illnesses. These vaccinations can be added to a treatment plan on an ongoing basis and tailor-made to the individual with dates and locations to get them administered. This can also help caregivers understand what the patient’s needs are and what kind of timeline they should consider.
One very dangerous aspect of getting older is falls, causing breaks and sprains. Nurse practitioners can provide prevention strategies for falls at home, which include modifications in the home, balance exercises, regular vision tests and other fall prevention strategies specific to the elderly patient. Another preventative measure in reducing age-related illness is nutritional counseling. Older patients may have food preferences that are not good for them and may need to learn a balanced diet, including proper hydration. The nurse practitioner can also help with resources for meals being delivered to the home or grocery services for elderly patients who may not be able to make it to a grocery store on their own. An exercise program can be incorporated into regular everyday routines with a focus on the individual’s abilities to maintain muscle strength, flexibility and overall physical well-being. Other preventative treatments include cognitive stimulation activities such as memory games and puzzles to help exercise cognitive function and delay mental decline. Activities that work both the mind and the body, such as learning special dance routines, are especially helpful in working the mental muscles.
When there is cognitive decline, one main worry is the patient either forgetting to take medication or taking too much because they can’t remember they took it already. Medication management includes having a proper medicine dispensing system that can be monitored by the caregiver, so the elderly patient doesn’t accidentally take too much or start to feel ill because they forgot an important pill. Medication management also includes other habits the patient may have that can affect medication, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and stress management. By providing health education and counseling to the elderly patient, the nurse practitioner can promote overall wellness and reduce the health risks to the patient.
The post-master’s program typically includes education on sensory changes that occur in the elderly population and an understanding of age-related alterations in sensory perception, including changes in vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Nurse practitioners learn to conduct comprehensive sensory assessments, identify sensory impairments, and implement appropriate interventions to address the specific sensory needs of elderly patients. They are trained in utilizing adaptive devices and technologies to improve sensory functioning, as well as in providing guidance on lifestyle modifications that can help compensate for sensory deficits. Creating sensory-friendly environments is an important aspect of caring for elderly patients, as well as enhancing communication with individuals experiencing sensory changes like hearing loss. Nurse practitioners can also provide support to caregivers and family members by educating them on the different sensory changes being experienced by their loved ones and how to cope with the changes. By integrating this knowledge into their practice, nurse practitioners can effectively contribute to the overall well-being and quality of life of elderly patients by addressing their unique sensory challenges.
Some sensory changes that are common in elderly patients include changes in vision, hearing, taste and smell, as well as touch. Vision changes include changes in visual acuity and a decreased ability to adjust to changes in light. For some elderly patients, glare from any light source can cause distress, and, in some cases, vision aids such as dark sunglasses are required. These vision changes can create a drastic change in independence and lifestyle, such as the loss of a driver’s license or being unable to walk outside on their own. Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration become more prevalent in elderly patients. These changes can affect the mental health of the individual in addition to causing physical changes.
Hearing changes are one of the most obvious signs of aging, as many elderly people will start to experience a decline in hearing acuity, difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds and challenges with distinguishing between similar sounds. This type of change can be challenging for caregivers or family members who live in the same house, as there may be a tendency to turn the television or radio up to a high volume or an increase in voice pitch. In most cases, a nurse practitioner can provide resources for hearing loss, such as hearing aids, to relieve some of the issues that occur.
Taste and smell changes lead to a decrease in the ability to detect certain tastes and odors. This may diminish the elderly patient’s enjoyment of food or decrease their appetite. In some cases, enhanced measures, such as fire alarms and other security measures, may be put in place because the elderly person won’t be able to smell a fire if it starts. Touch changes are also prevalent in elderly patients as they will have a decrease in sensitivity to temperature, pressure and pain, which could cause them to not realize when they have hurt themselves or are in danger and discomfort.
Geriatric medicine is an important area of study for nurse practitioners as the population is getting older, and more elderly patients need specialized care. With an advanced post-master’s degree, individuals can get the training they need to provide holistic, personalized care to elderly patients and enhance their quality of life.