Elderly Patients with Dementia Exhibit Poorer Behavior When Their Caregivers Rush, Study Says

Of course, we all know that people tend to do a better job and have better outcomes at whatever they’re doing if they take their time and pay attention to the task at hand. But a recent study makes it clear just how detrimental not taking your time can be if you work with the elderly.

Researchers based in Canada surveyed over 3,500 caregivers in 87 nursing homes in Western Canada. These care aides self-reported incidents of poor verbal and physical behaviors of four types from their patients as well as incidents of rushed care, either physical or social.

What they found was that the odds of a resident with cognitive impairment verbally threatening or hitting a care aide or engaging in other “bad” behaviors went up when nursing staff rushed through care tasks.

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61.5 percent of care aides reported rushing at least one physical care task during their most recent shift. More than 50 percent reported rushing the time they spent talking to residents. Those who rushed a social care task were 70 percent more likely to also report that the resident’s response was to yell and scream.

Aides who rushed more than one physical care task were eight percent more likely to experience yelling and screaming. The same pattern was noticed for other types of poor behaviors in residents.

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The research suggests that patients with dementia and other cognitive impairments do better with a “slow nursing” approach that involves more time spent with caregivers. Slower care allows residents more time to communicate with their carers and helps carers attend better to residents’ needs and preferences, leading to improved quality of life and minimizing frustrations.

Sadly, it’s very common these days for nursing homes and other establishments that care for geriatric patients and those with dementia to be understaffed, causing employees to need to rush in order to fulfill everyone’s basic needs. On top of understaffing issues, problems with the physical environment, division of resources, and ineffective interactions between staff members could contribute to rushed care.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Miguel Tamayo

The researchers believe strategic workplace management and an improved workplace environment may help prevent some of these behaviors from occurring. Better physical layouts may minimize the time carers spend walking between residents, for example. Improved teamwork and communication may also help care aides feel less rushed and encounter fewer interruptions.

“Ensuring adequate staffing and care resources, and a favorable work environment, should be top priorities for policymakers and nursing home managers to reduce rushed care,” Yuting Song, Ph.D., of Qingdao University in China and the University of Alberta, Canada, wrote, along with colleagues.

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