Geriatric nursing is a specialty within the nursing profession that treats elderly, or geriatric, patients. With the increasing lifespan of many individuals, the needs for nurse practitioners specializing in geriatrics will increase as well. These nurse practitioners treat the physical, emotional, social, and family needs of elderly patients, as well as the continual promotion of healthy lifestyles.
Geriatric patients have specialized medical needs that become more acute with age. For example, elderly individuals experience several changes in their respiratory system, including diminished muscular strength in the diaphragm, a stiffer chest wall, diminished gas exchange capacity and drier mucous membranes, resulting in greater difficultly with mucous excretion.
Additionally, many geriatric patients experience increase neurological disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and acute confusion, which can is characterized by an increasing inability to focus, sustain, of shift attention. Many geriatric nurses are required to be able to assess a patient’s mental status and cognitive skills.
Geriatric nursing is considered to be a high-demand practice area. Half of all hospital admissions in the United States are for individuals over the age of 65. However, currently only 1% of nurses in the United States are qualified in geriatrics.