Acute care management of older people with dementia: a qualitative perspective

Issue
Journal of Clinical Nursing
Volume 20, Issue 3-4, pages 420–428, February 2011

Keywords:
acute care;care management;dementia;nurses;nursing;older people
Aim and objectives.  This Australian study explored management for older people with dementia in an acute hospital setting.

Background.  As the population ages, increasing numbers of older people with dementia are placed into an acute care hospital to manage a condition other than dementia. These people require special care that takes into account the unique needs of confused older people. Current nursing and medical literature provides some direction in relation to best practice management; however, few studies have examined this management from the perspective of hospital staff.

Design.  A descriptive qualitative approach was used.

Method.  Data were collected using semi-structured audio-taped interviews with a cross section of thirteen staff that worked in acute medical or surgical wards in a large South East Queensland, Australia Hospital.

Results.  Analysis of data revealed five subthemes with the overarching theme being paradoxical care, in that an inconsistent approach to care emphasised safety at the expense of well-being and dignity. A risk management approach was used rather than one that incorporated injury prevention as one facet of an overall strategy.

Conclusion.  Using untrained staff to sit and observe people with dementia as a risk management strategy does not encourage an evidence-based approach. Staff education and environmental resources may improve the current situation so that people with dementia receive care that takes into account their individual needs and human dignity.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Nurses can assist older people with dementia by encouraging evidence-based care practices to become the part of hospital policy.

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