Skip to main content

Arkansas State University

Indicators of Cognitive Impairment for Geriatric Nurses

Geriatric nurses require a particular set of specialized skills to offer optimal care for their older patients. While all nurses have a baseline understanding of cognitive impairment, the variety of the presentation of such issues holds unique challenges with the geriatric patient base.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online program can equip graduates with the necessary skills to work with older patients and identify signs of cognitive impairment.

Key Warning Signs

Recently, cognitive impairments in adult patients have become more common worldwide. However, healthcare professionals are often surprised at the rate of progression of these impairments because they seem to occur suddenly and without warning.

Therefore, hospitals have started implementing cognitive screenings, specifically in addition to annual wellness visits for older individuals. With these screenings, healthcare providers have identified some trends or indicators of cognitive decline in the early stages of damage. Occasionally, there will be circumstances where the patient is at a mild stage of impairment, but treatment plans can improve the outcome of their particular case.

According to Science Direct, one of the signs of cognitive decline is mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which “presents with symptoms of slight memory changes and difficulty completing tasks (e.g., learning new skills, making daily decisions, and concentrating on tasks).” Some individuals suffer from memory loss or have trouble with the concepts of time and place.

Often, patients do not recognize these symptoms. They either are experiencing some level of denial about their cognition or are too busy to notice this decline and assume it is because they are tired from their daily activities.

On the other hand, certain individuals will display symptoms such as “multiple comorbidities” and “issues with communication (hearing, vision, and comprehension),” describes the National Library of Medicine. Other symptoms are language problems and perceptual or social decline.

Each patient has a different cause underlying their cognitive decline, and no two cases are alike. Similarly, each type of dementia is unique and will not be the same in every geriatric patient susceptible to the disease. Therefore, nursing professionals working with older patients must understand the nuances and complexities of cognitive impairment to offer proper support.

Common Causes

Adult-gerontology nurses are responsible for conveying to patients that they should not be afraid to tell their doctor about possible cognitive decline. Doctors are there to help patients through this process and find a solution. If their cognitive issues are caught early, patients can combat a rapid decline by preventing certain types of dementia or Alzheimer’s from progressing. Doing so also allows the patient to be involved in decision-making before they lose that cognitive ability.

The most prevalent modifiable risk factors of cognitive impairment include “tobacco use, physical activity, and strict management of obesity and obesity-related conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease,” states Science Direct.

Many patients might not know if they have an underlying health condition that has impaired their cognitive abilities. Assessing these patients for multiple conditions is crucial to determine if anything triggered this response in their brains.

For those diagnosed with severe cognitive impairment, geriatric nurses must care for them regularly to ensure they are not endangering themselves. The National Library of Medicine explains that nurses must often help patients with cognitive decline eat, get around, sleep and provide general assistance to those who are in no condition to be left by themselves.

Learn How to Address Cognitive Impairment With an MSN Degree

One way to uplevel your geriatric care knowledge as a nurse is to further your career in the adult-gerontology field and earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online program at Arkansas State University will learn about cognitive impairment and current treatment protocols.

Students will assess, diagnose and manage common acute and chronic health problems for patients from adolescence to older adults. In fact, they will develop the skills and expertise in as few as 24 months.

This program allows students to demonstrate safe and effective assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation skills in caring for individuals and groups while working in interprofessional collaborative relationships. For example, the Advanced Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation course covers the principles of evaluating patient health assessments to determine the outcome of their diagnosis. In the Advanced Clinical Physiology course, nurses focus on physiological processes in adults that occur with disease, adaptation and therapeutic intervention.

Each future geriatric nurse will obtain the knowledge required to work in rewarding environments such as private practice, public clinics, hospital-based outpatient clinics and specialty practices.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online MSN – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program.

Request Information

Submit the form below, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 866-621-8096

Ready to go?

Start your application today!
Or call 866-621-8096 866-621-8096
for help with any questions you have.
  • Choose All That Apply