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5 Ways the Aging Population and Mental Health Concerns Will Affect Nurse Practitioners

Group of Elderly Men

The promotion of behavioral wellness is growing in importance as a mission-critical objective for United States public health agencies. [1] The agencies are paying special attention to the mental well-being of America’s senior population. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) recognize that mental wellness is an important factor in overall health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” [2] AGNPs promote behavioral health among the senior population by identifying threats to mental well-being, educating patients and the public about behavioral health issues, and working to remove the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Healing at the Speed of Life

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners do more than deliver medical services and treatment. They treat the whole patient using a holistic approach to medicine. [3] For example, in addition to traditional practitioner duties, an AGNP engages with patients on a personal level while maintaining their professionalism. They combine creativity and experience to make hospital stays more than a formal procedure to heal physiological symptoms. The efforts that AGNPs put forth to heal nonsymptomatic conditions produce great rewards. When a patient recovers, or experiences a personal victory, practitioners share in the spirit of the moment.

Observations among the Aging

The Population Reference Bureau issues a report called Aging in the United States that reports about trends that shape the lives of seniors. [4] The bureau reports that the senior population will double in size, growing from forty-six to ninety-eight million individuals by the year 2060. Additionally, the group will represent 24 percent of the entire population, up from today’s 15 percent.

The aging population will also grow more culturally diverse. In fact, forecasts the Population Reference Bureau, the non-Hispanic white senior group will shrink in size from 78.3 to 54.6 percent of the population.

The following five sections indicate other significant trends that currently affect civilian and professional stakeholders in the behavioral health field.

1. Behavioral Health Risk Factors for Seniors

More than 20 percent of seniors suffer from behavioral disorders. [5] These problems will magnify as the world’s aging population expands from 12 to 22 percent by the year 2050. While most seniors enjoy fine mental health, the population is at increased risk of developing illnesses. This includes conditions such as neurological disorders and drug abuse as well as physical conditions like osteoarthritis, diabetes, and hearing degradation. The group also faces the risk of developing more than one of these conditions at once.

2. The Growing Demand for Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners

Nursing analysts predicted, as early as 2009 that the United States would suffer a nursing shortage that spanned from 2012 to 2030. [6] As the need for medical services increases, the shortage of nurse practitioners will follow suit. As a result, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is working with academic institutions, lawmakers, and nursing associations to highlight the issue.

3. Treating Behavioral Health for the Aging

Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners frequently diagnose members of the aging population with depression and anxiety. [7] Practitioners commonly deploy interventions such as psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and stress management to treat senior patients. Although individuals may use these terms loosely in daily conversation, in clinical context they are serious illnesses that care providers must treat just like physical ailments.

4. Help Is Available

When a senior loved one receives a diagnosis for a behavioral health condition such as dementia, the event marks a considerable life change for the patient and their family. [8] The discovery of a chronic behavioral health disorder requires a big adjustment by stakeholders. Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners assist these individuals by referring them to available community resources.

5. The Search for Assistance

After hospitalization for a behavioral health problem, practitioners called discharge planners assist seniors and their caregivers in identifying next steps and resources. [9] This may include volunteer groups, shopping assistance, and transportation services. Discharge planners may also locate in-home assistance by helping patients identify who’s available to deliver aid within their family circle or pointing patients and their caregivers to reputable services that aid with activities of daily living (ADL).

A career as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner encompasses moments of exhilaration as well as despair. It involves building positive relationships as well as providing and collecting memories from the many patients and families that seek treatments. With the right training and attitude, each nurse hopeful has the opportunity to ingrain themselves in the memories of patients and family members as their favorite practitioner.

Learn More

Across the country, a national shortage of primary care providers has set the stage for RNs to advance. As more states certify nurse practitioners as primary care providers, you can pursue a new avenue of nursing to fill meaningful voids in today’s health systems. At Regis College, you can earn an online post-master’s certificate to not just prepare for advancement in nursing, but to also expand services as a primary care provider.

Recommended Readings:

5 Resources for Nurse Practitioners for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
The Importance of Health Promotion for Family Nurse Practitioners
Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness

Sources:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf
[2] http://nurse.org/articles/5-heartwarming-surprises/
[3] http://www.prb.org/Publications/Media-Guides/2016/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet.aspx
[4] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs381/en/
[5] http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage
[6] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/878012
[7] https://www.agingcare.com/articles/understanding-mental-health-issues-in-seniors-209387.htm
[8] https://www.caregiver.org/caregiving-home-guide-community-resources
[9] https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/Resources/Nursing-Home-Alternatives.html