Challenges of Taking Care of the Elderly

Working with different groups and populations can present different challenges for medical assistants. Caring for the aged will include special efforts in building rapport, using effective communication and building trusting, productive relationships between yourself and your patients. 

medical assistant caring for elderly patient

It is important to consider obstacles and challenges of taking care of elderly patients in order to work effectively with different generations and cultures. Not recognizing or acknowledging these these differences can result in poor working relationships, misinformation and poor overall quality of care provided. 

Of all the special populations you will come across working as a medical assistant, the elderly may be the most common. "What do Medical Assistants do for geriatrics?" you might ask—but you'd be better served by asking what they don't do! From assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living) like eating and bathing, to helping with exercise and medication regimens, your role in geriatrics is essential! 

To help you better care for elderly patients, day shift, night shift or any shift…take a look at the suggestions below. 

Caring For the Elderly Checklist

Essential Tips for How Medical Assistants Can Better Deal With Elderly Patients 

  • A person must possess compassion, patience and an overall gentleness when working with the elderly.

Imagine you are caring for your own grandparent, and treat your geriatric patients exactly how you would want your own family treated. 

  • Genuinely listen to concerns, stories and questions to help build rapport and a positive, working relationship with an elderly patient.

Cognitive and physical abilities are often compromised in elderly patients, which can result in confusion, frustration and anger. Even if the source of the emotions and behaviors your geriatric patients display are not directly related to you as a caregiver, you're going to see how the inability to find the right word to communicate needs or the loss of physical function frustrates your aged patients. Taking time to listen to who they are will help you find ways to empower independence. You can learn a lot from your patients by just listening. 

  • Supporting and encouraging independence and personal accomplishments is also important when working with the elderly.

Fostering what independence remains can instill confidence in your patients. Let them do what they can, but always know your limits and your client's limits, both physically and medically as well as emotionally. 

  • Clear, concise communication is crucial when working with the elderly to ensure needs are met efficiently and thoroughly.

The senior citizen population is often plagued with audio and visual impairments, making communication more difficult. Constant eye contact is important to maintain a good relationship, as well as to note when ideas or phrases are not heard or understood by the patient. 

  • Express your desire to help and listen to their needs.

This can help break down barriers and work towards a positive, productive relationship. When you are able to really let your patient know that you want to help them, trust is earned and all tasks are made easier. 

  • Allot enough time and full dedication when working with the elderly.

This is important, if you are going to attend to your patients effectively. The needs and physical abilities of elderly patients may change daily and giving your full attention and setting a reasonable prioritized schedule can ensure needs are met. For instance, if you want to ambulate a patient to the shower, you need to set aside enough time to make sure you can do it safely, while not ignoring other patients' needs. 

  • It is also important to recognize when you do not know the answers.

When working with the elderly population, be open to asking questions and researching answers. Providing care to the older generation may include challenges like sundowners, dementia and decubitus ulcers. If you aren't familiar with the specific how's and why's of geriatric conditions, take the time to ask or find out for yourself. 

  • Finally, collaborate with those who know your elderly patients best: Their family, the nurses, doctors and care providers.

It's is essential to work as a team when you are caring for the elderly. The challenges of medical assisting can often be minimized by taking the time to ask family members what works best for their aged loved ones. You should also communicate with nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals at your facility to make sure any changes in status, concerns, and even successes are well understood by all members of the team. 

The challenges of caring for the elderly can seem overwhelming when you first start working with this generation of patients, but it doesn't have to stay that way. As a medical assistant, you will constantly be learning new ways to help your elderly patients, so you can provide top notch care. You'll also find that what medical assistants do for geriatric patients is not nearly as amazing as what your elderly patients can do for you. 

By taking the time to care for them, listen and learn, you will be richly rewarded by the satisfaction of knowing you are doing some of the most important work in the world. 

Caregiving for the elderly is so much more than just assisting with medications… 

If you have tips for working with the elderly that you'd like to share, leave some comments on our page. We'd love to hear from you!

 

If you are thinking about becoming a Medical Assistant, reach out to the schools on our site. You can find satisfaction and a rewarding career with just a few months of training.

 

And remember, you'll be making a difference in the lives across generations!

 


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