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Nurses caring for older people 'influenced by pervasive ageism'

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Nurses have “co-existing” positive and negative attitudes to caring for older people and are influenced by widespread ageism in societies, international research suggests.

With the world’s older population - those aged over 60 - predicted to increase from about 12% in 2013 to 21% by 2050, according to the United Nations, caring for the elderly is one of the big challenges facing most societies, noted the research authors.

Older adults are more likely to experience multiple chronic health conditions and require more support for everyday life than younger people, they said.

“Attitudes towards older people care are complex and contradictory”

Research paper on nurse attitudes to older people

But relatively little is known about nurses’ attitudes to older patients, added the paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

US researchers at the University of British Columbia’s school of nursing analysed 67 international studies to find out nurses’ views on caring for older people.

The results showed nurses had both positive and negative attitudes toward older patients.

Negative attitudes included perceptions of older patients being demanding, time-consuming and a burden.

According to the authors these attitudes reflected “pervasive ageism”, and the challenges and difficulties nurses experienced in caring for these patients.

Care for the elderly may be improved by creating “age-friendly” work environments, the research suggested.

“Attitudes towards older people care are complex and contradictory,” concluded the paper, called Nurses’ Attitudes Towards Older People Care: An Integrative Review.

“Influences on nurses’ attitudes need further study individually and collectively to build a strong evidence base,” it said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • For some time now the government has been wittering on about the increasing costs for the increasing older population, always delivered with a sense of dread, never as I've heard it, with a sense of interest and positive engagement in the challenge. It isn't rocket science, and the more humane it is the cheaper it is but for that to happen we need regulated and checked senior NHS managers with expertise in the 3rd stage of life..

    As we get older the emotional side of life becomes more important to most of us. So TLC (Tender Loving Care for those whose training forgot to mention that) becomes profoundly more relevant and quite possibly the pharmaceutical, digital and mechanical become less attractive whilst reckless fun of our own specific choosing (not anybody else's choosing) may become more desirable... more deaths by misadventure but fewer avoidable deaths by sepsis?

    We need to write our Advance Decisions to include how we feel about how we want to be treated, e.g. taking risks of our choosing, fed high fat diets when we don't want to eat or dehydrated when we do want to drink, having invasive surgery or life prolonging treatment if we have dementia , allowing surveillance reported to a confined few if inappropriate treatment is suspected, etc, etc..

    There is still a taboo talking about death and whilst for some it may be unsuitable to push the topic, some may just need set the example. Perhaps an Activity in a residential care home might be an Advance Decision Day for residents who wish to partake and for staff, too, since it is wise for all to have an Advance Decision, and treating it as wise for all instead of something to do only when approaching ill health and death, might make it much more positive.

    Consequent to the government's perpetually whinging attitude to the increased ageing population, comedians inevitably have got in on the act. That cannot be helped and ok, some of it is funny but it is pervasive also. I believe it is 5 positive comments we need to balance up after 1 negative comment. So for those working with the elderly it is massively important that we insist on placing great value on their contribution.

    How civilised a culture is can be measured by the treatment of their old and ill. As the 5th or 6th richest nation in the world, it is a disgrace that the level of care can often be so poor here and that those giving that care are given far too little recognition and respect for the work they do, especially when the political theory is to create a wealthy society by giving high value and rewards to those who already have wealth in the (false) hope that there will be a trickle down effect of wealth to those lower down.

    By now we really should have noticed that this does not in actuality happen and a widening social gap is harmful to all of us.

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