Special Group, Special Care

By: Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN, Regional Nurse Executive, Nurse.com
Jan Lynch, RN

Jan Lynch, RN

As the U.S. population continues to age, RNs are caring for increasing numbers of older patients who undergo surgical procedures to improve their quality of life. However, surgery presents unique challenges for elderly patients. The odds are not in their favor.

These patients may present with significant nutritional deficits, experience more serious surgical complications or require longer postoperative recovery. Despite many days of hospitalization and rehabilitation, they may never return to their previous levels of mobility, independence or cognition.

If you work in a preop, intraop or postop setting, you understand the unique needs of the elderly and the challenges they face as you provide care. Effects of aging, such as perceptual and cognitive decline, hearing loss and fraility, play a key role in adjusting patients’ plans of care. As a skilled clinician, you are keenly aware of possible cardiac and pulmonary complications, alterations in mental status, the increased risk of falling and the dangers of polypharmacy. As a patient advocate, it’s up to you to ensure your patients receive the highest quality of care and include and educate family members in the process.

To better serve the aging population, the American College of Surgeons and the American Geriatrics Society have issued a model for best practice in the preoperative evaluation of patients 65 years of age and older. These evidence-based guidelines promote optimal perioperative care of geriatric surgical patients and bring a new level of awareness to their unique needs. Published in October after two years of research and analysis, it highlights 13 areas requiring preoperative assessment and provides specific recommendations for each.

As a nurse, I have experienced in both my professional and personal life the care of elderly patients in various settings, and most recently in the surgical setting with my parents. I have seen firsthand what periop nurses do, and I applaud their dedication and commitment to the elderly and to patients of all ages who entrust their care in them.

Learn more about geriatric patients with this CE course:

The Geriatric Health CE Anthology, 2013 Edition
This program informs nurses about a number of diseases and conditions frequently seen in geriatric patients.

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