Geriatric nursing is an area of nursing that specializes in the care of aging patients. Nurses help manage patients with age-related disease processes such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease/ dementia, chronic pain, arthritis, and impaired mobility and self-care. As with any area of nursing, geriatric nursing presents a unique set of challenges.

Death and Dying

Perhaps one of the most significant challenges is death and dying. Aging patients are more prone to terminal illness, and facing the possibility of death is not only challenging for the patient and family but caregivers as well. Nurses also may go through the stages of grief and should be able to identify their coping mechanisms and have a healthy outlet for their feelings. Many caregivers are subject to feelings of guilt, and nurses are no exception. Facing the issue of death and dying also brings up the nurse's feelings of mortality, which can lead to anxiety and depression.


Nurses and families dealing with dementia must be patient and calm. It's easy for people to get frustrated with patients with memory ailments, and frequent, repetitive instructions may be necessary. Nurses should educate families about the disease process of dementia and provide tips on coping with the day-to-day care of patients with this disease. Offering respite resources for families is also crucial, but caregiver respite is also essential. Taking breaks helps recharge nurses and help manage frustration.


Impaired mobility, memory disturbances, and illness interfere with an individual's ability to take care of oneself. Aging patients are more prone to these disorders, and impaired self-care is the result. Nurses may have to care for patients after a fall and are sometimes at the bedside to witness the physical deterioration of mobility and the ability for older adults to take care of themselves independently. Families must often decide for 24-hour care, whether it's with them or in a care facility, and geriatric nurses are usually the ones to provide resources for care.

Abuse/ Neglect

Abuse and neglect are, unfortunately, prevalent among the aging populations. There are many causes of abuse and neglect and may include a families' inability to handle the complex care of their aging family member, financial problems, or mental illnesses. Regardless of the cause, geriatric nurses must be able to identify abuse and neglect and take the appropriate action to protect the patient. While abuse and neglect are prevalent, it still presents a challenge for nurses. It is painful and disheartening to witness abuse. Nurses may face depression and hopelessness. As with the issue of death and dying, nurses should be able to identify a healthy outlet for their feelings and frustrations.