Section 3 – Understanding Age-Based Changes

Cognitive Differences

During the aging process, people’s ability to process information often changes. A person’s attention level, ability to make decisions, their speech, language skills and memory can be affected due to aging. A nursing assistant may notice older patients struggle with making fast decisions (or decisions in the best interest of themselves and those around them). Additionally, aging patients may no longer possess the ability to conduct everyday tasks. Their speech may no longer be clear (or it can go in and out). Their ability to pay attention may differ and drift. Additionally, they may struggle to remember even simple details. Often, if a patient knows he or she is struggline with these cognitive issues it can become frustrating. This in turn may affect their overall mental state and can lead to depression or anxiety.

When a nursing assistant works with a patient who currently struggles with cognitive situations and decision making, it is very important to give them plenty of time to make their decisions and to carry out the task. Rushing the patient may make the matter worse. Any changes in a patient’s cognitive capability will likely happen gradually. However, if changes happen suddenly it may be a sign of something far more serious affecting their health and the staff nurse should be notified right away.

Psychological Differences

When a person ages, they may experience shifts in their relationships or social structure. As death becomes a regular part of aging, a person will start to lose friends and family members. This can affect their work, hobbies or what they do for fun. Often due to this, they may need to move out of their home (such as if a spouse passes), which in turn may affect them mentally and emotionally. They might also need to move out due to financial reasons. At the same time, they may start to see their mental capability begin to slow in addition to their physical capabilities as well. Often times people who move into long-term care destinations (such as retirement homes or nursing homes), they may eventually feel these shifts in relationships and a loss of their autonomy.

Many of these changes happen in close order, which puts the person at risk for depression, isolation, and loneliness. Due to this, a nursing aid needs to provide an emotional shoulder and remain understanding of a patient or resident as they will have often unique emotional and mental needs.

Sometimes, having belongings from their old home or pictures of family and friends can help their overall mental and emotional state. Allowing these creature comforts on hand is very important.

Physical Differences

During the aging process, people are likely to see a decline in their overall physical ability. Some of the most common changes they are likely to see include:

  • Slow digestion
  • Reduced circulation
  • Reduced skin elasticity
  • Reduced ability to produce moisture
  • Reduced lung elasticity
  • Increased changes of constipation
  • Urinary incontinence or retention
  • Slower healing
  • Loss or decrease of the senses


Offering Psychosocial Services for Patients and Residents

Common Needs

Every single human has a set of similar requirements (beyond the normal food and water requirements). While each person is a little bit different there is an idea known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These needs are described in a pyramid that helps clearly identify the kind of general requirements every person has. In order to address something further up on the pyramid, it’s necessary to address the larger need underneath.

The base and largest need of all humans id physiological needs. This is the need that includes everything a person needs to survive, such as air, food, and water. In modern society, it can also include shelter, sleep, sex and clothing (some require certain attributes of physiological needs more than others).

The next step in the pyramid is safety. A person needs to feel safe not just physically, but with their job and financially. This helps provide peace of mind and reduces stress.

The third level of the pyramid is social needs, such as the feeling of love and belonging. This doesn’t need to be a sexual need, but can be friendship and love between family members.

The fourth level is the need of esteem. A person needs to build their self-esteem through reputation, achievements, and responsibility.

Lastly, there is self-actualization. This is where a person reaches their highest potential, level of authenticity and ultimate creativity.

Providing Emotional Support

A nursing assistant will need to provide emotional support to residents as they go through these changes. This can be to help boost the chance of social interactions, set up daily routines for optimal success and to simply be there to talk to and to listen to a patient.

Providing Intervention

Upon entering a long-term care destination, residents and patients will experience a wide range of emotional and mental changes. This includes a loss of privacy, autonomy and even the loss of certain social roles. A nursing assistant needs to provide ample changes to work with other members of the facility and to help establish a daily routine, which improves the resident’s level of control and satisfaction. This also reduces possible environmental fears while fostering new friendships.





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