Promoting Dignity in Geriatric Care

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Over the last ten years, advocates for the care of seniors, such Adult Gerontological Doctor of Nursing Practitioners, have endorsed organizational policies and legislative reforms regarding dignity in the care of senior patients. [1] To address the departure from current policies and clinical practices in treating seniors, it helps to understand senior care from the rarely observed perspective of nurse practitioners.

Advocating for Dignified Senior Care

Gerontological health care professionals assert that providers must treat patients with dignity and respect that align with the basic freedoms afforded to all human beings. [2] Organizational culture is central to establishing this environment. In addition, providers must facilitate a collaborative treatment environment where patients and their family members are a part of the caregiving team.

Dignified senior care encompasses respect for the individual patient, privacy, positive employees, and the assurance of successful completion of activities of daily living (ADL). These are the factors that lawmakers assess when developing health policies regarding senior care.

The Critical Link for Positive Senior Engagement

As the individuals that engage with senior patients the most, frontline caregivers play a critical role in delivering health services. This is apparent, based on the comments that senior patients leave on their hospital exit surveys. Such metrics highlight opportunities for improvement in the gerontological caregiving setting.

Obviously, most caregiving institutions establish policies regarding the treatment of patients. However, frontline medical personnel may unintentionally fall short of those standards when faced with heavy caseloads, scarce resources, limited time, and overall fatigue. Senior patients remember those moments more so than the positive experiences during their hospital stays.

Despite the shortfall between organizational policies and how staff members interpret them, nearly all health care employees believe that they comply with patient engagement rules. To manage how frontline medical personnel engage with seniors, organizational leaders must develop and enforce patient engagement policies that outline acceptable behavior, while holding personnel individually responsible for compliance. In this regard, it’s critical that staff members acquire an accurate understanding of the true meaning of organizational policies regarding the care of elderly patients.

Clarifying Barriers to Acceptable Senior Patient Engagement

Employee understanding is not the only barrier to effective senior care. Factors for communication such as time, access to information, and privacy are sometimes elusive when nurse practitioners need them the most. Organizational leaders mitigate these incidents by providing quiet rooms where practitioners consult with senior patients. Additionally, administrators assure that there is sufficient nonmedical support staff so that nurse practitioners can focus on engaging patients appropriately. Administrators also clearly define roles and responsibilities for all personnel to ensure the best possible caregiving environment. These are the most important factors in delivering dignified care to seniors as viewed from the perspectives of medical professionals.

Delivering Dignified End of Life Care for Senior Patients

In the past, seniors commonly lived out their final years in their own homes. Today, however, many seniors transition through this stage of life in long-term care facilities. Some seniors enter long-term care facilities for treatment of specific conditions, while others are there because they need assistance with activities of daily living. Deciding to place trust in a long-term care facility or keep a senior family member at home in their golden years is a difficult choice for seniors and their families. This often depends on variables such as available funds and the kind of assistance available in either setting.

As time goes on, more families choose long-term care for their senior family members. Much of this decision is influenced by the fact that there is always someone to attend to seniors’ needs in long-term facilities, and at the least, a primary care provider is always on call.

Conversely, seniors’ homes are environments where they can age in place in familiar surroundings. Furthermore, friends and family members can come and go freely. However, the family members must assume many responsibilities in caring for their senior loved ones in this scenario. Yet, for certain families, the benefits of maintaining care at home through the end of life far outweigh any caregiving responsibilities.

In the United States, the aging population needs dedicated, empathetic nurse practitioners who will defend their dignity during treatment and services. This includes tending to the environmental, cultural, and emotional needs of senior patients.

Whether at home or in long-term care facilities, dignity in the care of senior patients encompasses positive attitudes and multidisciplinary collaboration; items well-rehearsed in effective modern nursing schools. [1] Duly, the newest legions emerging from America’s highly capable nursing institutions are receiving this kind of training at the right place in time.

Learn More

Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.

Recommended Readings

Patient Education and Chronic Pain
How Nurse Leaders Help Ensure Patient Confidentiality
How Family Nurse Practitioners with a DNP Degree Empower Patients and Families


[1] BMC Research Notes
[2] National Institute on Aging