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Mental Health Needs of Older Adults

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Getting Started

This teaching strategy focuses on assessing function and expectations of older adults as well as the coordination and management of care. It also enhances students’ spirit of inquiry and nursing judgment. 

1.  Show the PowerPoint presentation introducing students to the ACES Essential Actions as a way to organize their thinking about assessing and addressing the mental health needs of older adults. 

2.  Show the PowerPoint presentation on the mini case studies which address both cognitive, mood and transition issues of older adults. Guide a discussion or an online forum on what concerns, priorities, and general issues the student is considering in caring for each of the older adults in the scenarios. Each slide has speaker notes which outline the intent of the scenario, but students may have expanded ideas about how they are interpreting the scenario which may lead to a rich discussion. 

3.  Utilizing this teaching strategy in the classroom or seminar environment: Click on the link to the unfolding case study on Henry and Ertha and scroll down to play the audio file. Start playing the evolving case study of Henry and Ertha, an elderly couple experiencing issues of transition, depression (Henry) and cognitive impairment (Ertha). Click on the Instructor’s Toolkit to guide questions, but also consider the following discussion questions, which are specifically targeted for the mental health concerns of Henry and Ertha. 

  • How is Ertha demonstrating that she may have a cognitive impairment?
  • How would you assess this concern?
  • What medications are generally indicated for cognitive issues?
  • What symptoms of depression do you see in Henry?
  • How are symptoms of depression differentiated from the symptoms of Henry’s medical issues?
  • What medications are generally indicated to treat depression?
  • How are these medications monitored? What are the side effects specific to older adults? How is a response measured? 

4. Using this teaching strategy: 

A.  The activities in this teaching strategy can be used individually or in its entirety. For example, the mini scenarios can be used in lecture to illustrate a point or engage students in a discussion. They can also be used to prepare students caring for older adults, to increase their knowledge regarding what they may encounter. In addition, they can be used in an online forum discussion to have students identify their own assessments and prioritizations of the situation. The strategy can be used in its entirety in lecture, clinical or even as a clinical alternative. 

B.  Assign students to older adults they can interview and access. Introduce students to the How to Try This series and have them access the assigned older adults using tools in the materials section that re appropriate for the clients. 

C.  Either in writing or in discussion in a clinical conference, have students prioritize mental health issues based on the assessment of their clients and the coordinating tool they used as part of the assessment process. Then have students identify individualized interventions to address these issues. The following are considerations for students as they formulate their thoughts on the assessments of their clients: 

  • Are the client’s issues related to a cognitive issue, a mood issue or anxiety?
  • How is functioning affected by the client’s issue?
  • How might medications play a role in the symptomatology?
  • How is the client’s family affected by the issue?
  • What type of a response can be expected with medication? How will the response be measured? What side effects of medication are of particular concern with older adults?
  • What path and prognosis can be expected with the client’s specific issues?
  • How would the nurse consider risks and benefits of treatment options in terms of quality of life with this client? 

D.  Have the students write a reflection of the impact they felt while both assessing their older adult clients and considering the interventions that would best fit the clients’ needs.