As you work with older patients at you’re your travel assignment, you may have noticed that they seem to be unable to move their focus as quickly as your younger patients.

This is typical for older adults and is actually part of the aging process.

According to an article in the March/April 2012 issue of Senior Living Executive in which author Anya Martin interviews neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley about his study of older adults aged 60-80.

Dr. Gazzaley and his researchers found that, according to the article, the older adults “had a much tougher time re-engaging after a distraction than 22 younger counterparts aged 18-20, and that difficulty corresponded to changes that could be seen visually in MRI scans of their brains.”

Dr. Gazzaley and his cohorts are now studying if this decline has anything at all to do with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. He and his team at the University of San Francisco also are studying whether “brain games” and other tools might help people retain their ability to multi-task as they age.

In the meantime, knowing that your older patients might not be able to focus on a new task (say, moving to a new therapy move as a physical or occupational therapist works with a patient) as quickly as your younger patients can go a long way to helping you become a better healthcare professional.

Here are some other tips:

  • Tell the patient that you are going to ask him or her to do something else while he or she is doing another activity. That is, for example, if the patient is doing front leg exercises, let the patient know he or she will be doing calf raises next. Tell the patient again when he or she finishes the front leg exercises.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum. Aim to work in a quiet room and, if you’re a colleague enters the room, try not to have a conversation unrelated to your patient in the room.
  • Remember that what you may think is easy to do – read an article while watching television, for example – may not be as easy for your older patient.
  • It’s not that our patient doesn’t understand what you ask of him or her; it may be that he or she needs a moment or two to process your request.
  • Also, your patient may not be hard of hearing. Again, it may be that he or she needs a moment to move from one of your comments/requests to another.

To read more about Dr. Gazzaley’s research, read the article.

Whether you’re a nurse, a PT, OT, or other healthcare professional, our clients need you. Contact a recruiter at MedPro Healthcare Staffing to learn more about the many traveling healthcare assignments we offer. We look forward to hearing from you!