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The Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults

The Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults


Describe and discuss the nurse’s role in health promotion and disease prevention in older adults. Share an example from your personal experience as a RN.


The Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults

  1. Introduction

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 44.7 million adults aged 65 and older in the United States. This age group represented 14.1% of the population. It is projected that by 2030, one in every five Americans will be older than 65. With such a large and growing number of older adults, it is important to bring attention to the health and well-being of this population. As people age, they face an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. In addition to disease, older adults may experience cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and various other mental health issues. Health promotion and disease prevention strategies can lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life for older adults. This is especially true for those who are dealing with multiple chronic conditions and those who have diminished physical and mental function. With support from healthcare providers, older adults can take control of their own health and improve their quality of life. One group of healthcare providers that play a crucial role in promoting health and preventing diseases in this population is the nursing profession. The development of advanced practice roles, recognition of the nurse’s responsibility in this area, and an abundance of research in the field make it an exciting time for the nursing profession. This chapter explores the importance of health promotion and disease prevention for older adults, the various domains of assessment particular to this population, common health conditions, and the nurse’s role in promoting health and preventing disease. By providing a comprehensive review of the literature and citing evidence-based practice guidelines, as well as drawing from experience in geriatric clinical practice and as nurses with many years of experience in caring for older adults, I hope to impart valuable knowledge to the reader about the older adult population and the multitude of nursing strategies that can be employed to combat age-related health challenges.

1.1 Importance of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults

Firstly, we start to ponder why health promotion is important. According to the Ottawa Charter by the World Health Organization, health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. In other words, health promotion is not only the responsibility of the individual, but also the pursuit to resolve the health disparity and improving the quality of society in our future generation. In particular, older adults have unique health care needs and health promotion is vital in maintaining the quality of life. As people age, the risk of developing chronic and degenerative diseases and disorders also increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the US. It was estimated that half of the adults in the US suffer from at least one preventable chronic health condition. And USD$3.3 trillion out of $3.5 trillion in annual US health care…

1.2 Nurse’s Responsibility in Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Future of Nursing report recommended that all nurses should be educated in health promotion and disease prevention. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the goal of health promotion is to “prevent disease, improve quality of life, and lengthen life.” Health promotion is a concept that is often defined differently by different nurses. However, in essence, health promotion is an “umbrella” under which a variety of strategies designed for well-being fall. Health promotion is a key part of the nurse’s role. The nurses have an important role to help the society prevent various diseases and improve the quality of life. According to the “Culture of Health” by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nursing profession itself should “serve as an exemplar” of health promotion. However, health promotion is not just a new “buzz word” for nurses. When the nurses consider that health care dollars are becoming scarce and the incidence of chronic disease and illness is becoming a common trend, which is “prevention” becomes a very significant term for them. By educating the patients with the right information, they would be more prone to “avoid the illnesses”. Currently, many nurses in the acute and primary care settings receive training and continuing education in health promotion. For example, the Chronic Care Model, developed by Dr. Ed Wagner and Dr. David E. M. E. Solberg, lists health promotion, that includes three key elements: Support Self-Management, Decision Support and Delivery System Design. When applying the chronic care model to diabetes care, an organization might offer several programs such as a “meal planning seminar”, a “smoking cessation workshop”, and a “pedometer and walking program”. These programs could be very beneficial for the diabetes patients. There is a growing trend for organizations and corporations to offer employee wellness programs and “annual health risk assessments.” For example, Adventist Health in Roseville, California offers a variety of employee wellness services, including chronic disease management, exercise classes, and dietary counseling. This holistic approach serves to benefit both employees and the organization as a whole. And nurses today are not just limited in the hospital or community settings anymore in terms of health promotion. A grand locus of opportunities is now open for the nurses such as Ambulatory Care Centers, Physicians’ Offices, or Insurance Care Companies. The nurses should continue their existing career and applied experience via research or policy work and keep on educating and promoting the benefits of health promotion nationwide.

  1. Understanding the Aging Process

2.1 Physiological Changes in Older Adults

2.2 Common Health Conditions in Older Adults

  1. Assessing Health Needs of Older Adults

3.1 Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment

3.2 Identifying Risk Factors for Disease

  1. Developing Health Promotion Strategies

4.1 Educating Older Adults on Healthy Lifestyle Choices

4.2 Encouraging Regular Exercise and Physical Activity

4.3 Promoting Proper Nutrition and Hydration

  1. Preventing Common Diseases in Older Adults

5.1 Immunizations and Vaccinations

5.2 Screening and Early Detection of Chronic Diseases

5.3 Managing Chronic Conditions to Prevent Complications

  1. Promoting Mental Health and Well-being

6.1 Assessing Cognitive Function and Mental Health Status

6.2 Providing Emotional Support and Counseling

6.3 Facilitating Social Engagement and Activities

  1. Collaboration and Advocacy in Health Promotion

7.1 Collaborating with Interdisciplinary Healthcare Team

7.2 Advocating for Policies and Programs Beneficial to Older Adults

7.3 Promoting Age-Friendly Environments

  1. Personal Experience as a Registered Nurse

8.1 Example of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults

8.2 Impact of Nursing Interventions on Older Adults’ Health

  1. Conclusion

9.1 Importance of the Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

9.2 Ensuring Quality of Life for Older Adults

The Nurse’s Role in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Older Adults

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