Figuring out what’s what and who’s who
A geriatric emergency management nurse, provides specialized frailty-focused nursing services in emergency departments. Seniors represent as many as 30% of the patients seen in emergency departments, more than any other age group. Illness complexity, hospital admission rates, lengths of stay and risk of functional decline are all high for seniors. Indeed, emergency department visits are often sentinel events for seniors, threatening loss of independence, health and well-being. By providing specialized frailty-friendly services, decline and loss of independence can often be prevented or postponed.
An intensive care unit, critical care unit, intensive therapy/treatment unit or high dependency unit is a specialized department in a hospital that provides intensive care medicine. A geriatric intensive care unit is a special type of unit dedicated to the management of critically ill elderly patients. The goal of this unit is to restore physiologic stability, prevent complications, maintain comfort and safety, and preserve pre-illness functional ability and quality of life in older adults.
A step-down unit is a hospital nursing unit that provides care intermediate between that of an intensive care unit and a normally staffed in-patient division, such as a medical unit.
A personal support worker is trained “care aide.” The personal support worker may observe and report clinical and treatment information, assist with range-of-motion exercises and other rehabilitative measures, take and record blood pressure, temperature, pulse, respiration, bodyweight and height, assist with ambulating and mobilization, and help with personal hygiene.
Licensed practical nurses and registered practical nurses are regulated healthcare professionals who work in partnership with other members of the healthcare team to provide nursing services to individuals, families and groups of all ages. Licensed practical nurses assess, plan, implement and evaluate care for clients throughout the life cycle and through palliative stages. They do not administer intravenous medicines or give injections or narcotics. They can take basic vitals, give routine medicines and provide basic care.
A registered nurse is a nurse who has graduated from a nursing program at a university or college and passed a national licensing exam. A registered nurse can administer intravenous medicines, give injections including narcotics and perform admission assessments. These nurses will often assume an administrative role regarding staff management, compliance and reporting.
Occupational therapy treatments that develop, recover or maintain clients’ activities of daily living. The therapist helps clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of function.
A physiotherapist or physical therapist provides physical rehabilitation and pain relief. A physiotherapist assesses a patient’s physical abilities and needs, and develops an individualized treatment plan including therapeutic exercise, manipulations, massage and education.
Speech-language pathologists have expertise in assessing and intervening for typical disorders of communication and swallowing, such as prevention, counselling, treatment, consultation, management, rehabilitation and education.
A dietitian is a healthcare professional who focuses on proper food and nutrition to promote good health. The goals of dietitians are to provide medical nutritional intervention to address medical issues involving dietary intake.
Social workers help people function in their environments, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems. Geriatric social workers try to improve the quality of life for senior citizens and help alleviate some of the negative aspects of aging.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation, physiatry or rehabilitation medicine is a branch of medicine that aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities. The objective of rehabilitation is to transition a patient from an illness to recovery, with physical, emotional, social and spiritual components. The process is initiated in the rehabilitation hospital and continues after the patient is discharged back to the community.
Complex continuing care or chronic care units provide continuing, medically complex and specialized services in hospitals for patients with long-term illnesses or disabilities requiring skilled, technology-based care that is not available at home or in long-term care facilities. These units provide patients with room, board and other necessities, in addition to medical care.
Pat M. Irwin, BA, AICB, COCA, is president of ElderCareCanada and a certified mediator.