According to the journal Health Affairs, one-ninth of the population over the age of 65 and one-third of the population over the age of 85 suffers from Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. Because of the broad impact of the disease in the elderly community, health care professionals need to be prepared to deal with the needs of patients with this illness. The U.S. has an aging population, and as The Journal for Nurse Practitioners notes, as the population ages, the prevalence of age-associated diseases increases across the community. Along with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia affects a significant number of older adults.
In light of the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., there’s a need for nursing professionals specialized in caring for older patients. One of the core responsibilities of adult-geriatric nurse practitioners (AGNPs) involves developing nursing care plans for their dementia patients. Pursuing an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Science in Nursing, can strengthen the skills and expand the abilities of nurse practitioners (NPs) so they can have a positive impact on the lives of dementia patients.
Developing a Nursing Care Plan for Dementia Patients
The journal Palliative Care: Research and Treatment defines dementia as a syndrome or collection of symptoms that includes a decline in reasoning and communication skills, a decline in memory ability, and a gradual loss of skills used for daily living activities. Because of the effects of the illness, it can be a challenging process to develop a nursing care plan for dementia patients. The key to a functional daily care plan for these patients is to be flexible and keep activities interesting.
Caring for dementia patients can be challenging for nursing professionals. If patients see multiple nurses during their stay at an institution, then a detailed nursing care plan for dementia is a necessity. The steps in developing a dementia care plan include the following:
● Discussing the situation. NPs should discuss the changes patients are going through with them or their loved ones and understand how patients feel about their circumstances.
● Developing a team. The team comprises not only nurses but also any individuals in the family who may be responsible for the patient’s care. Having everyone on the same page is important to ensure that the patient gets the care needed.
● Determining the patient’s needs. Each patient is different and has specific needs. NPs should understand a patient’s history and diagnosis to develop a plan suited to the needs of the patient.
● Creating the plan. NPs can use the information gathered in the previous steps to design a care plan that caretakers will follow. This plan will outline what was discovered and include individual notes for the specifics of each patient.
● Taking action. Developing the plan is only the first step in caring for a person with dementia. The entire team needs to take action based on the plan and coordinate to ensure that the patient gets the care required.
The Alzheimer’s Association states that a caregiver should take note of the following when making a plan:
● What the patient likes, dislikes, is interested in, and what abilities the patient has
● How the patient structured a day before being diagnosed with the illness
● The time of day that the patient functions best
● What times are to be set for waking and sleeping
● Sufficient time for meals, dressing, and bathing
Setting a nursing plan in place enables the NP to bring structure to the patient’s life. Having a reliable schedule can help a patient cope with day-to-day life. AGNPs are trained in the development of a nursing care plan for dementia and can apply this knowledge to specific cases to help individuals who have the illness to live fuller, more rewarding lives.
What Skills Do Nurse Practitioners Need to Care for Dementia Patients?
NPs who specialize in adult and geriatric care need a specific skill set to carry out their duties. AGNPs need to show a high level of compassion and understanding. In addition to this, they must demonstrate patience because their charges are usually trying to adapt to a changing style of life, which may leave them feeling vulnerable and likely to lash out. AGNPs also need to demonstrate extreme emotional stability to be there for their patients in their time of need. Strong decision-making skills are crucial to ensuring that plans are set in motion and followed. Finally, AGNPs must have expert communication skills because their patients may have trouble with making their needs known, and it’s up to the NP to help them get their message across.
AGNPs face similar daily schedules to other registered nurses. They deal with ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, managing disease, and administering medicine to patients. However, the unique part of an AGNP’s day comes from their focus on educating caregivers and the patients themselves on the best way to work around the limitations dementia may place on the patient. They also provide emotional support to patients and their loved ones.
An AGNP is guided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing as well as state laws. The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association gives nurse practitioners the chance to get certification attesting to their status as a specialist in the field of geriatrics. For individuals looking at becoming an AGNP, a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing along with an active RN license are required.
Graduates of Regis’ online Master of Science in Nursing program are well prepared for entering any nursing specialty. For graduates interested in becoming an AGNP, Regis offers a specialization in adult-geriatric nursing. The following courses are included in this specialization:
● Sociological, Political and Economic Perspectives in Aging. Students explore how an aging population significantly impacts each of these areas.
● Clinical Concentration Course: Primary Care of the Adult-Geriatric Client I. Students explore the basic guidelines of dealing with an adult or geriatric patient.
● Concentration Course: Primary Care of the Adult-Geriatric Client II. Students specialize in best practices and procedures for in-depth work with older patients.
Earning an Advanced Degree in Nursing to Care for Dementia Patients
Dementia can be a psychologically scarring disease for loved ones. Because of this, AGNPs are trained to deal with both patients and their families and bring comfort to them. Regis’ online Master of Science in Nursing helps graduates with their role in dealing with dementia, starting with the development of dementia plans with a logical methodology and going on to help the relatives of patients understand the new needs of their loved ones as they go through the stages of the disease.
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Alzheimer’s Association, Daily Care Plan
Alzheimers.net, “How to Create a Checklist and Daily Care Plan for Dementia”
ScienceDirect, “Dementia Screening and Management Practices of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses in Texas”
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Advance Care Planning in Dementia: Recommendations for Healthcare Professionals”
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Preparing the Health Care Workforce to Care for Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias”