Keeping senior patients comfortable can be challenging, particularly if patients have multiple issues. It is important to both patients and their families that they are kept as comfortable as possible. And, it should be important to your hospital, too, since patient comfort plays a major role in patient satisfaction and HCAHPS scores.
Instituting a comprehensive training program supporting comfort solutions for geriatric patients can help your staff provide an even higher level of care. Whether you use formal training sessions or lunch-and-learns, ongoing training should be a priority. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Start with the Basics
Make sure your staff understands the basics of working with elderly patients, including addressing them with respect and treating them like adults, despite any cognitive deficits. Demonstrate how easy it is to unwittingly speak to elderly patients like children just by raising your voice. When people raise their voices, many naturally speak slower and use a singsong tone.
Although staff members will need to speak louder if a patient is hard of hearing, it’s important not to use a patronizing or condescending tone. When patients feel that you treat them like equals, they’re much more likely to let you know when issues arise that affect their health and comfort.
Teach Them How to Identify Problems
Geriatric patients may not complain about pain or problems for several reasons. They may not feel comfortable voicing their concerns, may no longer have the language skills to express themselves, or may not notice that there is a problem. Focus on identifying ailments common to elderly patients, such as dementia, arthritis and hearing and vision loss.
Empower Your Staff to Find Solutions
Identifying problems is useless if your staff can’t do anything to make patients more comfortable. Review your department’s procedures for referrals to other departments, and challenge your staff to come up with solutions to patient problems.
A group at one hospital realized that being cold was a risk factor for some elderly patients and obtained gently worn turtlenecks for them to wear.
Increasing patient comfort is often as simple as providing more blankets or ensuring that a hard-of-hearing patient sees an audiologist. Remind your staff that since geriatric patients may be reluctant or unable to voice their concerns, it’s up to team members to identify problems and find solutions.
With the increased emphasis on patient-centered care and HCAHPS scores, it’s more important than ever to focus on patient comfort and satisfaction. Training your staff to identify and respond to issues and concerns will help you ensure that you’re doing everything possible to make the hospital experience a positive one for your patients.
Concerned about your HCAHPS scores? Learn how to improve them with our free guide, A Nurse’s Guide to Positively Impacting HCAPHS Scores.