Basic Principles in caring for Elderly ¬°V Patience and Respect


For the human, physiological and psychological changes occur with aging. When we are caring for the elderly patients, we should deal appropriately with these changes. This pamphlet aims at introducing some physiological and psychological condition of the elderly, and also the ¡§basic principles¡¨ for caring the elderly: patience and respect.


Physiological functions wane when people getting old. When we take care of the elderly, we should take heed to these changes. Here are some examples:


In general, old people have a poorer vision. Some even have cataract or glaucoma. Before starting every health care procedure or examination, always tell them beforehand and ensure they are psychologically prepared.


The elderly would have a lessened hearing ability. When you need to talk loudly to them, avoid shouting.


The peripheral sense of some diabetes and under-nutrited patients drop much. So when taking care of them, especially if they have pain due to diseases, never overlook their ¡§minor¡¨ response.


The layer of subcutaneous fat in the elderly is thinner than young people. Their skin also loses elasticity due to dehydration. When moving the body of the elderly, beware of injuring their skin. Keep them warm during winter time.


Elderly people easily get tired or even sick due to diminished endocrine function and decreased metabolism. Be patient when dealing with these elderly.


Owing to decreased functioning of the renal system, old people may have problems such as incontinence, frequent urination, etc. Assist them if they need toileting and, be patient with them.


Obvious changes such as general weakness could easily be seen in this kind of patients. Assist them to move about if necessary. Yet, if the condition is safe while the elderly is able to move by himself/herself, simply let them go ahead. Be patient with their slower motion.


In general, people¡¦s bodily functioning decreased when they get older. Nevertheless, old age is not synonymous with diseases. A majority of old people could still lead a healthy life, whilst some may have heart, lung, liver or intestinal diseases. Whatever health condition the elderly may have, we should give appropriate care, attention and assistance to meet their needs.


There are also psychological changes when people are getting old. When caring for them, we need to take care of their mind as well.

General psychological condition

Old people get tired easily. They may have lessened ability to express. Be patient when communicating with them. Let them finish what they want to say.


Elderly people tend to resist strangers and do not trust people. Before starting a health care procedure to them, or even before moving their furniture at home, tell them beforehand what you are going to do. This would avoid un-cooperation when they don¡¦t trust you.


We often use ¡§Old Papa¡¨ or ¡§Old Mama¡¨ to address elderly people. Before providing health care, we should show respect to them by asking them how to address them such as ¡§Mr.¡¨, ¡§Mrs.¡¨ or ¡§Madam¡¨. What is more, no matter how old and what gender they are, their privacy should be properly protected and respected.


With the advent of death, old people may experience some emotional changes. Some event like the death of spouse or getting a terminal disease may bring them through a ¡§grieving process¡¨ including: ¡§Denial¡¨, ¡§Anger¡¨, ¡§Bargaining¡¨, ¡§Depression¡¨, and ¡§Acceptance¡¨. When dealing with these elderly people and their family members, never take death for granted for old people and adopt an indifferent attitude.


One day, everyone of us will get old. When taking care of the elderly, do pay respect to them as to yourself. Bear in mind: ¡§Patience and Respect¡¨ is the basic principle.


Information provided by the Fire Services Ambulance Command Training School (7/2002)
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