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DOMINICA STATE COLLEGE Faculty of Health Sciences


Presented to MS. BERNADETTE AUSTRIE by REBEKAH R. ROBERTS 10BROR00498 28.3.2012


Life is but a Journey. At the beginning of my journey I am blessed To see and assist those at the end of theirs. It is a great privilege, I honour the responsibility and accept the challenge, Knowing that one day, I too will be at the end of mine. And then I will hope that someone at the beginning Will treat me as I will strive to do now; Knowing that life is but a journey.


OLDER ADULTS AND WELLNESS :Ageism And Other Myths And Stereotypes

In my time in the clinical setting as a student I have been privileged to see many things that please and displease me. I include displease me, in that I have deeply appreciated the experiences, some bad that have allowed me to form attitudes and have allowed me endeavour to hold a higher level of care for the older adult. Every negative habit I see being perpetrated by my nursing and healthcare- giving colleagues’ tugs at my heart, and every tug solidifies the thought that I never want to treat another human being these ways. I say this not only thinking of the individual being mistreated, that they could be my parents or grandparents, but that one day they could be me. Ageism, a concept introduced by R.N. Butler, is the process of systemic stereotyping and discrimination against people because of their age, usually directed against the elderly. Ageism occurs either because persons are uneducated and ignorant on the process of aging and so develops negative stereotypes and myths or that overall they do not contain, within their being the capacity to care for individuals placed in their care. The former can be remedied with education but fortunately or unfortunately for the latter, nursing is in part an art and caring cannot be taught. In my clinical experience on a particular ward I saw a ward aide threatening to harm a patient if the patient did not do as she had requested. I felt shocked and saddened by

this treatment and had to intervene. I stated to the ward aide, that this was no the way and that more understanding and care should be shown towards the patient considering that the behaviours exhibited by the patient was indicative of previous maltreatment. The situation was one that was unfortunate but happens many times in the care of the elderly. Notions are formulated that older adults are unproductive, disengaged, inflexible, senile, unable to learn and sexless. These myths then carry on to the way older persons are cared for. These myths dehumanize those who should be respected members of our society and strip them from their dignity and the respect they deserve. It should be noted that less than 5% of older adults experience dementia and it is often a consequence of disease, overmedication, neglect and despair, the latter three things, things that may occur from ageism constructs by care givers. According to Masters and Johnson (1995), when older persons are properly motivated, their intelligence does not wane. In fact, with better organizational skills borne of experience, the ability to organize thoughts efficiently may increase as one ages. It is therefore important that education, re-education, re-emphasization and seminars be done on care and stimulation of the older adult to enhance the lives of the older adult. Knowledge of age related factors (biological, physiological and psychosocial) will allow for change of thought in care givers and invalidates many of the myths and stereotypes of aging. This can then be transferred to practice and will allow for a higher and more specialized level of care for elderly persons.

Understanding the Disengagement Theory, Cummings, 1961, and Activity theory, Havighurst, will better allow for planning and implementing of care for older adults. The former states that older adults undergo a withdrawal from society that is inevitable and systematic that ensures social equilibrium. This dispels the notion that (especially in Dominica) all older women who are withdrawn from society are “soucouyants” or have mental problems or are abnormal. The activity theory states that the key to healthy aging is keeping the older adult active. This also states that remaining psychosocially fit with stimulation is important to healthy aging. Using these two theories in conjunction with each other the care giver can realize that though the older adult withdraws from society, this does not have to translate into all physical, mental and social activities and therefore programs can be put in place to meet those needs of stimulation. Also using the theory of sub-culture and age stratification, more detailed plans can be made to facilitate stimulating social and mental activities by grouping persons based on their similarities such as mobility and health to create individuals to grow and improve with their cohorts. Knowledge is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance the care given to and the lives of elderly patients. It is therefore important that knowledge of gerontology be increased among health care workers so that health and wellness is maintained and ageism attitudes and stereotypes be eradicated.

What do you see nurse, what do you see? Are you thinking when you look at me – A crabbed old woman, not very wise, Uncertain of habit with far away eyes, Who dribbles her food and makes no reply When you say in a loud voice – “I do wish you’d try.” Who seems not to notice the things that you do And forever is losing a stocking or shoes, Who resisting or not, lets you do as you will With bathing or feeding the long day to fill. Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see Then open your eyes nurse. You’re not looking at me. Focus on the family, 1985

 Eliopoulos, E. (1987) Gerontological Nursing. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.   Encarta Dictionaries. (2008). Microsoft Corporation. Kozier, B., Erb, G., Berman, A., & Snyder, S. (2004). Fundamentals of Nursing Concepts, Process and Practice (7th Edition ed.).  Linton, A. Matteson, M. Maebius, N. (1995) introductory nursing care of adults.1st ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company.