- Encourage discussion with medical staff upon admission and diagnosis. Part of the initial assessment of new residents should include asking them whether or not they know what their diagnoses are. Nurses and doctors can offer a brief explanation of unfamiliar terms and assess the need for more information, the length of time since diagnosis (the more recent the diagnosis, the more likely the resident will be in emotional distress and may benefit from mental health support), and the level of family involvement (involved family may need information too). Any new diagnoses after admission should be discussed with the physician and followed up as needed.
- Dispense fact sheets about illnesses. Every illness is Google-able. Chances are that your boomer residents and/or their family members will be researching their illnesses on their smartphones or laptops, but the details they’re obtaining may not be from reputable sources. By providing information from established medical sites, staff can direct residents to credible resources. The staff members also will have easy access to the information and can familiarize themselves with the illnesses and required care. Fact sheets could be in a binder available at the nursing stations for the staff to distribute or in a magazine rack accessible to the residents and visitors.
- Provide information about illness organizations and how they can join. Along with the basic details an illness fact sheet provides, residents can be offered information about disease-specific organizations. The mere knowledge of the existence of such groups can be helpful, since many residents feel alone with their illnesses, despite the fact that they may be sitting in the hallway next to another resident with the same disease. Privacy laws prevent staff members from sharing such similarities, and residents might not feel comfortable discussing their physical concerns with a neighbor on their floor. Illness-related societies can offer support, coping strategies, hope and perspectives that others are unable to provide. Joining such organizations can be an important step in regaining a sense of control over one’s life.
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