Nowadays, nursing science is a rapidly developing area, and its achievements touch upon numerous aspects from specific medical issues to everyday life. As the term implies, nursing science is the type of science that integrates theory, actual nursing practice, and research. Just like any field, it is characterized by a set of the most urgent challenges. One of the most important spheres to which nursing science draws attention is elderly care. In this paper, the social background of this tendency, the key problems connected with senior adults’ health, possible solutions and innovations introduced by the health care providers at the moment, and future implications are examined.
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Social Stratification of the Modern Society
The recent times are notable for far-reaching changes in terms of the social structure. The positive innovations in preventive medicine, disease control, and better nutrition have led to the life expectancy increase. It means that an average person is expected to live longer now than an individual of the previous epochs. An American born in 2012 is expected to live 78.9 – throughout the country’s history; this index is unprecedented (Haber 12).
As a result, the population is gradually growing older. About 14.5% of all people in the USA (46.2 million persons) are the elderly, i.e.; they are 65 and older (Haber 15). Consequently, the task of primary importance is to meet the expectations of the elderly population and find resources to support them.
Although the number of senior adults is increasing, the society continues to label age as something unwanted. One wishes to be young forever and feels uncomfortable if they are reminded of their status. The modern mass media encourage this attitude and fail to represent the elderly without any bias. At the same time, nursing science identifies geriatric or elderly people as the top priority. Thus, there is a world of difference between social attitude and the scientific point of view.
Main Problems Associated with Nursing Care for the Elderly
Taking into account the facts mentioned above, one can understand that elderly people’s problems are to be a significant characteristic of the future life. Obviously, nursing science and health care services need to address this challenge. In this respect, it is possible to single out three main areas in terms of which society and geriatrics are likely to develop: treatment, prevention, and ethics.
The list of diseases to which elderly persons are subject is long. There is no doubt that all of them must be cured; however, some diseases cause death among the elderly more frequently. Heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, unintentional injury, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza, kidney disease, and suicide are named as the most common problems (Haber 13).
Nursing science is, by definition, to explore the mechanisms of contraction of diseases and different types of treatment. Currently, more and more researchers decide to concentrate on elderly patients and the progression of their diseases. The fundamental principle of these medical studies is that an elderly person needs specific care different from that of the middle-aged population, and the large body of literature is based on it. One of the most pressing problems is multimorbidity, when at least two chronic conditions occur at the same time (Whitson 1668). It is a widespread phenomenon, and nursing science is seeking appropriate solutions.
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Another aspect of nursing pertains to preventive measures that sometimes are even more important in the elderly population than treatment because of the nature of the disorder or tendency. Frailty in senior adults illustrates this peculiarity: changes in the musculoskeletal system of an elderly person result in higher risks of slip and fall accidents. Consequently, it is vital to avoid possible dangers, such as steep stairs, rugs, slippery floorings, and so on.
Nursing science draws attention to specific preventive programs intended to reduce risks and educate patients and their families. Under preventive services adaptation, testing and diagnosing are supposed to help maintain good health and reveal a disease that has not caused any visual symptoms yet. However, there is the other side of the coin, the so-called lag time to benefit: it is the time between preventive measures implementation when these actions can bring harm and cause complications as well as help and the visible health improvement (Lee, Leipzig, and Walter 2610). Thus, prevention is an essential component studied by nursing science.
Finally, ethical concerns remain relevant. They are intertwined not only with routine nursing practice and emergency and end-of-life situations but also carrying out research. It will be no exaggeration to state that all actions of nurses and other health care professionals touch upon some ethical considerations. The present area is characterized by the specific issues associated with senior citizenship: age discrimination, respect for autonomy, respect for privacy, and decision-making competency (Maddox 222). In other words, nursing science studies the standards of care in relation to interpersonal communication and recommends certain rules and appropriate models of behavior in a particular situation.
Nursing science helps identify the current challenges in geriatrics and promotes corresponding decisions. Although much work is still to be done in order to provide adequate care and improve people’s health, the present-day achievements and plans are remarkable. In this section, the contents of Healthy People 2020, technical innovations, geriatric education development, and changes in the organization of medical practice that are only a few of the accomplishments are described.
Healthy People is a nationwide program that aims at improving the health of the American population and sets several objectives for ten years. As it is stated, the mission of this program includes identifying nationwide health improvement priorities, involving diverse sectors to take measures to enhance policies and improve practices via the best available evidence and knowledge, and raise public awareness and understanding of the situation in health care (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion par. 8).
These aspects are reflected in the goals set within the program. In relation to the elderly care, a separate goal is established: “improve the health, function, and quality of life of older adults” (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion par. 1). To achieve it, preventive services enhancement, chronic disease treatment, and injury prevention are listed as the most significant areas.
It is emphasized that federal assistance should focus on supporting specific programs (for instance, Older Americans Act programs) pertaining to concrete problems and addressing elderly people with low income. Thus, Healthy People 2020 is an important program that helps authorities and health care providers orientate in the health care system, and geriatrics have every opportunity to develop in this context. Nursing science can also make use of this approach and examine how these criteria refer to the actual nursing practice in geriatrics.
The importance of technical innovations is obvious. To improve the quality of services, effectively cure senior adult patients, and develop prevention as the leading direction of growth, health care maintains awareness in this sphere. EHealth services implementation is probably the most representative example. There are many studies that prove the effectiveness of this innovation. The case of the Pathway Through Pain program is connected with the on-line pain self-management: it includes 24 steps introducing different techniques that can be used to cope with chronic pain (Currie par. 17).
According to this study, most people welcome the usage of new technologies in health care and feel their positive effect. Thus, technological development is also significant in other spheres outside nursing science: nursing informatics, family practitioner’s work, and others. The researchers underline that the potential of eHealth is considerable; however, personal preferences may make an impact on users and become a decisive factor when they choose the type of EHealth services. Thus, the sphere of technical advances becomes one of the essential issues for nursing science.
Education is, undoubtedly, one of the areas that closely collaborate with nursing science. Would-be professionals gain knowledge, develop skills, and apply the principles of this filed in the course of their training. Due to the external factors connected with the growing number of elderly people, the goal of present-day education is to meet the demand of society for elderly care providers. The number of programs intended to prepare specialists in this sphere is growing, and now the cross-disciplinary programs are becoming predominant.
They may integrate a wide range of workshops, student development in geriatrics, geriatric assessment, evidence-based practice in the acute care environment enhancement, community-based programs (Haber 60). Students who received thorough training are likely to become good specialists and help improve the current situation. Overall, education and nursing science cooperate and view future development as the top priority.
Last but not least solution is to refer to patient interaction practices, such as home visiting. This strategy seems effective because risk groups are addressed, and the prevention is, as it has been discussed, advantageous (Maddox 106). Nursing science covers the connection between the real practice and theoretical effectiveness of this approach.
Judging by the tendencies described above, one can predict that nursing science and elderly care as one of its core areas will remain important. While the technologies are developed now, and many programs practically prove their effectiveness, there is much room for improvement. It is necessary to address rural territories in which the progress is not so impressive. Another issue is to continue research concerning the most frequent diseases in the elderly population since they still cause many deaths. One of the common problems, multimorbidity, should be thoroughly studied. Patients should be trained to use medical technologies.
To sum up, nursing science is one of the most influential spheres within health care nowadays. Many urgent issues, such as elderly care, are addressed by it. Geriatrics is a perspective area since the senior adult population is growing. While there are numerous challenges concerning elderly people’s health, the corresponding measures are taken. It is necessary to work in this field, and nursing science can be of great help in this context.
Currie, Margaret, Lorna J. Philip, and Anne Roberts. “Attitudes Towards the Use and Acceptance of EHealth Technologies: A Case Study of Older Adults Living with Chronic Pain and Implications for Rural Healthcare.” BMC Health Services Research 15.1 (2015). BioMed Central. Web.
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Haber, David. Health Promotion and Aging: Practical Applications for Health Professionals. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2013. Print.
Lee, Sei J., Rosanne M. Leipzig, and Louise C. Walter. “Incorporating Lag Time to Benefit into Prevention Decisions for Older Adults.” JAMA 310.24 (2013): 2609-2610. Print.
Maddox, George L. The Encyclopedia of Aging: A Comprehensive Resource in Gerontology and Geriatrics. New York: Springer, 2013. Print.
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2020 Topics and Objectives – Objectives A–Z. n.d. Web.
Whitson, Heather E., Richard Sloane Kimberly, Christine Cigolle Pieper, Lawrence Landerman, and Susan Nicole Hastings. “Identifying Patterns of Multimorbidity in Older Americans: Application of Latent Class Analysis.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 64.8 (2016): 1668-1673. Print.