Caring for people at every stage of life is a key competency for healthcare providers. The physical and emotional needs of patients can vary significantly by age and culture. Age-specific competencies are those that help providers appropriately care for and communicate with patients, residents and clients at all stages of life. These competencies address age as well as temporary or permanent disabilities, culture and stresses. Age-specific competencies should focus on communication, safety and security, health and health assessment.
One of the keys to providing safe and appropriate care is the ability to recognize and understand the age-specific needs associated with each stage of life. While every patient is an individual, generally people age and develop in age-related stages and have some qualities in common at each of those stages. Age-specific competencies help patients at every age and stage of life get the care that they need while remaining partners in their own healthcare. In addition to helping providers offer age-appropriate care, these competencies are also an essential part of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) process for achieving and maintaining accreditation.
Clear communication is essential to providing safe, effective and appropriate care. Because physical, emotional and psychosocial needs change as we age along with the kinds of things that cause stress or fear, providers need to be equipped with age-specific education so that they may successfully address those needs. Healthcare providers should be able to respond with the appropriate interventions whether the patient is an infant, child, adolescent, adult or geriatric adult.
Providing competent care is a priority for every healthcare leader. Insuring that it happens is a challenge. Providing age-specific competency training should be on the radar screen of every healthcare leader. Managing the process by which age-specific competencies are built, measured and maintained can be a daunting one without the right tools. Be sure to choose tools that will:
For anyone providing direct patient care, be sure to offer training to support age-specific competency in communication, safety and security, health and recognition of common illnesses and conditions. For infants and toddlers, children, adolescents, adults and geriatric adults, providers should be able to describe healthy physical growth and development, appropriate communication, safety needs, general health needs and expected illnesses as well as expected psychosocial and physical needs. Providers should be able to articulate specific examples of age-specific care for patients at all ages and stages of life.
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