How Nurses Can Care and Empathize with Elderly Patients"Now you know what it feels like!" Ever hear that statement? Recently, I fell down on black ice and hurt my, ahem, bottom side. So I called my friend and said, “I really hurt my hip and my back goes ‘squeak’”, to which she replied, “See, now you know what it feels like.”I guess she means that she always has hip and back pain and I’m just not tuned in to it. That's probably what nursing care is all about - to learn how to empathize with your patients.

It’s difficult sometimes to know what someone is going through if you’ve never been there before. So, here are five ways for nurses to care and empathize with elderly patients. We, as caregivers, can get frustrated and these will help us know how aging feels like.

  1. Put on really thick gloves and try to write your name, or better yet, try to open that pill bottle. 
  2. Put some soap on your glasses and try to write your name, or try to read those instructions one more time.
  3. Here’s something I did as a kid but it works here too. Take a hand mirror, place it in front of you like a tray, and walk through your rooms looking down into it. 
  4. Wear your sunglasses at night, inside your house, and try to sort out your aspirin from your non-aspirin.
  5. Lastly, if you have a long bathrobe, put it on, don’t grab hold of it, and try walking down the stairs.

So, now that you can’t pick anything up (1) or see because it’s fuzzy (2) or really, really dark (4) – and you’re hungry, but you can’t seem to make it to the kitchen because your perception is a bit off and you feel a little imbalanced (3), or truly can’t quite make it down the stairs (5), now you know what it feels like!

I always center myself with a few deep breaths and calibrate my feelings when I know I’m going to visit “Alice”. These little reminders of how we should deliver nursing care can work like a charm for elderly patients.