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How nurses and social care providers collaborate to support the aging population 

Research shows that older people will comprise 20% of the population by 2050. Although the demographic shift has impacted socioeconomic factors and workforce levels, the healthcare industry has been dramatically affected as it now has to cater to this population to ensure their well-being.

Healthcare providers, especially nurses, must handle the aging population’s complex needs. Unfortunately, the current number of nurses cannot accommodate the growing population. A collaboration between nurses and social care providers can help ease the burden and ensure a holistic approach to care. Our detailed guide explores the aging population’s needs, how these two disciplines can collaborate, and the challenges faced.

Understanding the needs of an aging population

Older people face a unique set of challenges. Understanding these challenges is crucial to determine how collaboration between nurses and social care workers can address these issues.

The elderly population consists of people aged 65 and over. Statistics indicate that by 2050, the number of senior citizens will grow to 90 million. That growth in the geriatric population can be attributed to several reasons, such as:

  • Increase in life expectancy – More people are now engaging in regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and refraining from bad habits, leading to improved mental and physical capacity and delayed care dependency. Advancements in health and being in a supportive environment have also contributed to increased life expectancy.
  • Reduced birth rates – The declining birth rate in the US has also contributed to the high population of senior citizens. People are living longer and increasingly choosing to have fewer children, so the average age of the population is rising. This means that demands on healthcare are increasing for the older demographic.

What are the implications of an aging population?

The aging population is having a profound impact on society, healthcare systems, and social care providers. Some of these implications include:

Increased healthcare demand

With age also comes a high likelihood of cognitive decline, chronic diseases, and mobility issues. This has increased the demand for healthcare services, especially nurses, to provide long-term care and rehabilitation. If you want to pursue a nursing career but have a first degree in another course, you can enroll in one of the accelerated BSN programs at Elmhurst University. The course allows you to earn a bachelor of science in nursing to go on top of your existing degree. The programs at Elmhurst are reputable, and their flexible nature ensures you can gain your education while balancing other commitments. In just 16 months, you’ll be prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and provide care to meet the growing demand.

Social isolation

Seniors living alone and those with mobility issues face social isolation. Unfortunately, seclusion can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Increased caregiver burden

A growing aging population also means that the required number of caregivers has increased. Family members who act as caregivers may experience burnout and stress over time as they struggle to balance their work, personal life, and the demands of caregiving.

Furthermore, an increased aging population contributes to changing family dynamics. Adult children now have to take up the role of caregivers, which can be difficult and disruptive.

Economic challenges

The healthcare system and governments must adjust to the demographic shift to handle the aging population. They must include older people in healthcare, pensions, and social services to help them settle well. That places economic pressure on the system, which can be challenging to navigate without innovative solutions.

The role of nurses 

Nurses, especially geriatric nurses, undergo advanced training to care for the needs of senior patients. They cater to older people’s physical health needs and handle the social and emotional aspects of aging. Some of their primary responsibilities include:

Clinical assessment

Geriatric nurses evaluate and monitor elderly patients’ health status. They conduct thorough health assessments while considering sensory impairments, mobility issues, chronic illness, and cognitive function. With these assessments, a nurse can provide individualized care to senior patients.

Additionally, nurses conduct pain assessments, especially for patients with chronic conditions. Nursing professionals also help elderly patients manage several medications. They’ll advise patients on the proper dosages, their medication regimen, and potential side effects.

Nurses also take time to educate elderly patients about how to properly administer medication, particularly for those who find it challenging to manage their medication without help. Senior patients are also more likely to react negatively to medication. Geriatric nurses monitor patients for side effects and communicate any adverse reactions to other healthcare providers.

Apart from health and pain assessment, geriatric nurses assess patients’ nutritional needs. Most elderly patients deal with dehydration and malnutrition. Nurses assess patients’ nutritional status to determine if they have any deficiencies. They also work with nutritionists to create customized meal plans for patients.

Patient advocacy

Nurses also serve as advocates for their senior patients. They have a role in ensuring they can voice their patients’ concerns through healthcare policies. Furthermore, they discuss their preferences with patients and their families to ensure their care aligns with patients’ wishes.

Another essential role of nursing professionals is preventing abuse. Elderly people are often vulnerable, and nurses go through training to recognize signs of abuse and report that to the authorities. Creating a safe environment promotes the patient’s quality of life.

The social care provider’s role

Social care workers complement the healthcare services nurses provide. They go beyond the clinical care aspect and address the elderly patient’s holistic and social needs. Some of their responsibilities include:

Providing emotional support

The elderly have specific emotional needs, especially when dealing with life-limiting conditions. Social care providers offer emotional support as part of their holistic approach to palliative care. These professionals talk to seniors about their concerns and feelings that they may not be comfortable sharing with family or friends.

Through counseling and therapy, older people can navigate feelings of anxiety, depression, and grief. Seniors also have to deal with social isolation and loneliness as they become less mobile. Social care providers work with them by engaging in games, conversations, and going on outings. By providing companionship, social care providers help seniors combat feelings of isolation.

Additionally, social welfare officers also intervene in times of crisis or distress. They can recognize signs of distress and determine how to connect with older people.

Spiritual support

Spirituality is different for various people. For some, it’s determining the meaning of life, while for others, religion may be their faith. Social care providers offer avenues through which the elderly can connect to religious leaders or find a spiritual advisor to talk to them.

Assisting with daily activities

Social care providers assist seniors with daily living activities. They help the elderly go through their daily personal care routine and support them with activities such as taking a shower, grooming, and going to the washroom. That support ensures that seniors maintain their sense of well-being and dignity.

Additionally, these professionals assist seniors facing mobility challenges. They help the aged to use wheelchairs, transfer them from bed to chairs, and provide a safe way for them to move around their home. Some elderly people have difficulty preparing their meals; social care providers ensure seniors enjoy well-balanced meals by considering their preferences and diet restrictions.

Helping the elderly with daily activities also involves reminding them about their medication. Social care workers promote medical adherence by ensuring that seniors take their medicines at the stipulated time.

These professionals also help to maintain a clean and safe living environment for the seniors. They dust the house, organize the living space, and do laundry.

Community engagement

Social care providers offer holistic care by organizing and facilitating social activities that seniors can engage in. These activities foster mental stimulation, promote social interaction, and give older people a sense of belonging.

Furthermore, they assist seniors in accessing community resources such as elderly support groups, transportation services, and senior centers. Providing access to these resources ensures that seniors actively engage with the community, preventing social isolation. The care providers sometimes include seniors in local volunteer events to foster a sense of belonging.

Another critical role of social care providers is to act as advocates on behalf of seniors. By advocating for the elderly needs, care providers ensure they get access to essential services and benefits.

The power of collaboration in care coordination

A collaboration between nurses and social care providers can lead to a more comprehensive approach to elder care. The aging population needs care that extends beyond clinical treatment. Combining a holistic approach with medical treatment is the only way to address the elderly’s emotional, physical, and social needs.

Here’s how these two professions can collaborate to improve seniors’ quality of life. 

Comprehensive assessment of an elderly individual’s needs

Nurses and social care providers need to conduct a thorough assessment of an elderly individual’s needs to determine the right care plan. The nurses take up the medical assessment, which entails a person’s medical condition, evaluation of chronic diseases, and creating a medical treatment plan.

Social care providers handle the functional, psychosocial, and environmental assessment. In functional assessment, these professionals evaluate the elderly’s functional abilities and ensure individuals get to enjoy their independence. Additionally, social care workers conduct psychosocial assessments to assess a person’s mental and emotional well-being. They provide emotional support, while nurses handle cognitive impairments or mental health issues.

Another critical role of social care providers is to assess an individual’s environment to ensure it’s comfortable and safe. They will check for potential safety risks and recommend changes, such as moving things that can lead to falls. Nurses provide advice on how to handle medical equipment at home.

Through personalized care plans

Nurses conduct a thorough medical assessment of elderly people. That includes reviewing their medical history, assessing their current health conditions, checking their medication, and other healthcare needs they may have. Social workers perform a psychosocial and functional assessment to evaluate the person’s living abilities, social support network, emotional well-being, and other factors affecting their quality of life.

Nurses can work with social care providers to create customized care plans that reflect the unique needs of each senior person. The care plan serves as a roadmap for providing care. Social care providers contribute to the care plans by incorporating daily living assistance, community engagement strategies, and emotional support. Nurses also collaborate with social care providers to develop a plan that outlines medication management, health checkups, and treatment regimens. The comprehensive care plan must outline the type of care interventions and the frequency of treatment.

Collaboration also helps them develop a coordinated care plan, which changes as individual needs evolve. By sharing their personal experiences, social care providers and nurses get to create an adaptable and comprehensive care plan.

Additionally, both professionals meet regularly to ensure the care plans meet elderly individuals’ needs. During these meetings, nurses and social care providers can assess a patient’s progress and determine if they need any modifications.

Note that for this to work, nurses and social care workers need to maintain open communication and share relevant information to ensure any changes are addressed. Regular meetings also allow both teams to get feedback from patients’ families and other healthcare providers, making adjustments easier. Proper documentation of the provided care also helps in providing continuous care.

Care during transitions

Collaboration between nurses and social care workers is essential as seniors move between different care settings. Sometimes, seniors have to shift from home to assisted living, and other times, they need to move from hospital to their homes.

Nurses and social care workers must work together to ensure a seamless transition. They meet and discuss the process and plan the discharge to ensure patients’ needs are met in the new setting. During this time, they exchange information about care plans, medical records, and medication prescriptions to prevent disruptions and facilitate a smooth transition.

Social care providers also help seniors transition to new care settings by working with in-home care services and ensuring the person is comfortable.

Through the provision of supportive and preventative care

Nurses work collaboratively with social care workers to identify any potential issues likely to cause harm or injuries to the elderly. The goal is to reduce hospitalization and enhance the seniors’ overall well-being.

For example, the collaboration can help identify fall risks and develop prevention strategies. That can include removing potential hazards or installing grab bars to improve balance. Additionally, nurses manage medication, ensuring that individuals take their medicines as prescribed. Conversely, social care providers provide emotional support to reduce depression and anxiety.

A collaboration between these two professionals also promotes community engagement, where seniors can participate in social activities to reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Enhanced quality of life for elderly people

A collaboration between social care providers and nurses addresses older people’s physical health, social factors, and emotional needs. That contributes to an improved quality of life. With collaborative care, seniors can maintain independence in living communities and homes. Furthermore, teamwork enhances the seniors’ emotional well-being and mental health.

Will technology improve the collaboration between nurses and social care providers?

Technology is expected to transform the collaboration between nursing professionals and social care workers in delivering elder care.

For example, telemedicine is expected to revolutionize consultations. In some cases, both nurses and social care workers can communicate with seniors without being physically present. With real-time consultations, older people will get timely interventions. Additionally, telemedicine will improve healthcare access, especially for individuals in rural areas.

Nurses and social care providers will also have access to electronic health records. They can access updated medical records and the latest care plans to ensure coordinated care. Furthermore, they can combine data from different places, including remote monitoring devices, telehealth consultations, and lab results. That allows for informed decision-making.

Providing a holistic approach through nurse and social care collaboration

Addressing the needs of the elderly isn’t limited to physical health. There’s also a need to address holistic well-being, including social and emotional aspects. A collaboration between nursing professionals and social care providers provides a holistic and individualized approach, which results in a comprehensive care plan and an improved quality of life for older people.

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