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Holistic Geriatric Care Resource Center

Welcome to our Holistic Geriatric Care Resource Center, created to prepare nurses and other healthcare professionals to care for older adults holistically. AHNA is committed to:

Improving the quality of health care for older adults

Providing up-to-date information on the holistic care of our elders

Advancing holistic nursing competence in geriatric practice

The Scope and Standards of Practice for Gerontological Nursing (2010) defines the goal of gerontological nursing practice as: “... to provide the highest quality of care to the older adults within a health care system facing an unprecedented increase of their numbers. To do so, gerontological nurses employ a shared body of skills and knowledge to address the full range of needs related to the process of aging, the specialized care of older adults, and the uniqueness of older adults as a group and as individuals. These specialists lead interprofessional teams and collaborate with older adults and their significant others to promote autonomy, wellness, optimal functioning, comfort, and quality of life from healthy aging to the end of life.” (ANA, 2010, p. 5) 


The February 2019 Beginnings magazine focused on holistic advanced care as it applies to end-of life nursing care, aging-in-place, and the family caregivers. These are the authors  and article titles in the issue.

Gale Lyman, BSN, RN, HNB-BC. Forgotten Family Caregivers.

Jamie Vinson, BSN, RN, HN-BC, RYN, Pamela Bland, MSN, RN, CENP, NB-BC, and Brooke Kinzer, BSN, RN, CMSRN. The Final Gift: A Nursing-Led Bereavement Initiative.

Donna M. Adams, RN, OCN, CHPN, HTCP/I and Melinda H. Chichester, HTCP/I, EOL Doula. Integrating Healing Touch for Advanced Illness & End-of-Life Nursing Care.

Rita K. Chow, EdD, RN, AHN-BC(ret). Holistic Nurses Champion Aging-in-Place.

Karen Radtke, MSN, APN, HWNC-BC, AHN-BC. Advanced Nurse Coaching for Patients with Complex Needs.

AHNA Geriatric Nursing Home Study Courses

AHNA offers a set of home study courses on topics that are important to Holistic Geriatric Nursing. See below.

These courses are available both with and without CNE credit. They were created in a collaboration with Nurse Competence in Aging (NCA) grantees and are updated every two years.

If you have questions or suggestions about geriatric nursing, please send them by email to education@ahna.org.

Aging with Chronicity

The purpose of this CNE activity is to explore the realities of chronic illness in later life through an independent, self-paced reading activity. Click here to access this course.

Following this education activity, the participant will be able to:
1. Describe three demographics for older adults in the U.S.
2. List five common changes of aging.
3. Describe three geriatric syndromes.
4. List three Complementary and Alternative Modalities (CAM) available to older adults.  

Complementary Therapies in Geriatric Care

The purpose of this CNE activity is to increase the learner’s knowledge of safe integration of complementary and alternative therapies into geriatric care. Click here to access this course.

Following this education activity, the participant will be able to:
1. Describe the characteristics of CAM users.
2. List at least two risks to older adults who use CAM inappropriately.
3. Discuss the benefits of CAM in geriatric care.
4. Describe several CAM therapies, their potential use, and special considerations in geriatric care.
5. List at least three responsibilities nurses have when using CAM in geriatric care.  

Self-Care for Geriatric Nurses

The purpose of this CNE activity is to increase the learner’s knowledge of self-care for geriatric nurses through a self-paced educational activity. Click here to access this course.

Following this education activity, the participant will be able to:
1.  List five reasons why nurses fail to properly care for self.
2.  Describe at least three characteristics of nurse healers.
3.  List major categories of macronutrients and micronutrients.
4.  Calculate target heart rate during exercise.
5.  Describe the basic steps of meditation.
6.  Describe the relationship of journaling and inner growth. 

Spirituality in Geriatric Nursing

The purpose of this CNE activity is to explore spirituality in geriatric nursing care through an independent, self-paced educational activity. Click here to access this course.

Following this education activity, the participant will be able to:
1.  Describe developmental tasks in late life.
2.  Differentiate religion and spirituality.
3.  List eight spiritual needs.
4.  Describe at least three methods for assessing the state of a person.
5.  Discuss measures the nurse can use to care for a person’s spirit.
6.  Identify at least five signs of spiritual distress.

Geriatric Care Book Review

Review by Genevieve M. Bartol, RN, ABCS, EdD, AHN-BC

Image result for Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation by Cheryl A. BarrettGood Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation by Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN (2018). Outskirts Press. 202 pgs.

Good Grief was recently named a 2018 AJN Book of the Year in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice. The author, a nurse, draws from her personal experiences of loss and grief following the sudden death of her husband of 46 years. She shares reflections on her loss and the strategies she used for healing. The resulting book is not a how-to manual, but rather the story of one person’s experience after the death of a loved one. The author points out that some people try to avoid the pain of grieving by increasing physical and/or mental activity, or withdrawing and retrieving into isolation, but neither of these coping mechanisms are useful. Rather, the author reminds the reader that the grieving person needs to care for their self and suggests that doing so offers the best way to care for others. Certainly, each story is unique, and yet, reading this author’s story provides an opportunity for reflection and should be helpful to all nurses.

Review by Genevieve M. Bartol, RN, ABCS, EdD, AHN-BC

End of Life, Nursing Solutions for Death with Dignity by Lynn Keegan and Carole Ann Drick (2011). New York: Springer Publishing, 252 pp.

This book, part of the Watson Caring Science Institute, Springer Publication Caring Science Library Series, addresses our culture’s need for expanded attention to the dying process and proposes as an innovative solution: “Golden Rooms” that offer personalized, peaceful, dignified and loving care at the end of life. It received the 2011 AJN Book of the Year Award in Hospice/Palliative Care and Gerontology.

The authors argue that nurses need to pay equal attention to the dying process as to the birth process. They begin with a discussion of how and when dying moved from homes—where the dying person was surrounded and supported by loved ones—to hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) where, too often, patients die alone and only after needless suffering.

  • Part 1 focuses on end-of-life issues, current costs of care, and legal and ethical matters. Statistics related to deaths add interest and help put things in perspective.
  • Part 2 offers an overview of primary and supportive theories that is helpful in guiding practice.
  • Part 3 offers a guide for implementing the concept of the Golden Room.

Each section includes case examples and highlights issues of concern for reflection that provide excellent opportunities for further discussion. Nurse educators would find these case examples and concerns useful for teaching students.


Sprinkled throughout the text are tables of useful detailed information that serve as gentle prompts for all nurses, such as basic communication skills to promote meaningful conversation about the dying process and the physical and neuropsychological signs of approaching death. Valuable information about advanced directives, living wills, and durable powers of attorney are also included. Discussion on “releasing and letting go” offers every reader an opportunity to consider one’s own attitudes and how they are preparing for their own deaths.

The authors present an important subject that deserves attention.

More Geriatric Care Resources & Links

AHNA is pleased to provide this list of online resources to support holistic nursing care of older adults.

Try This®: Best Practices in Nursing Care to Older Adults from The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, New York University, College of Nursing

The goal of the "Try This: Assessment Tools" is to provide best practices in care of older adults and to encourage the use of these best practices by all direct care nurses. These Assessment Tools are designed to be:

• Easily accessible
• Easily understood
• Easily implemented
 The content is designed to help nurses understand the special needs of older adults and use the highest standards of practice in caring for them. 

Each “Try This” issue includes a 2-page document with a description of why the topic is important and an assessment tool that can be administered in 20 minutes or less. The series is accessible online through the link above. “Try This” instruments are designed to be used as screening tools, not for diagnosis, and include a:

• General Assessment Series
• Specialty Practice Series
• Dementia Series

• Quality Improvement Series

Do You Know Enough About Advance Directives and Older Adults? 

All people have the right to decide what will be done with their body, and all patients who can participate in a conversation, either verbally or through an alternate means of communication, should be approached to discuss and record their treatment preferences and wishes. To learn more about Advance Directives, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Program at the link above.

Do You Know Enough about Healthcare Decision Making in Older Adults? 

Capable persons have a well-established right, grounded in law and Western bioethics, to determine what is done to their bodies. In any healthcare setting, the exercise of self-determination (autonomy) is seen in the process of informed consent to and refusal of treatment and/or care planning. 

Determination of decision-making capacity is a compelling clinical issue because treatment and diagnostic interventions have the potential for significant benefit, burden, and/or risk. Honoring the decisions of a capable patient demonstrates respect for the person; honoring the decisions of a patient without capacity is an act of abandonment. Learn more at the link above.

Exercise Can Minimize Pain Effects of Parkinson's

Highlighted Article: Allen, Natalie E.A; Moloney, Niamh; van Vliet, Vanessa; Canning, Colleen G. "The Rationale for Exercise in the Management of Pain in Parkinson’s Disease". Journal of Parkinson's Disease, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 229-239, 2015. 

Pain is a distressing non-motor symptom experienced by up to 85% of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), yet it is often untreated. This pain is likely to be influenced by many factors, including the disease process, PD impairments as well as co-existing musculoskeletal and/or neuropathic pain conditions. Expert opinion recommends that exercise is included as one component of pain management programs; however, the effect of exercise on pain in this population is unclear.

This review presents evidence describing the potential influence of exercise on the pain-related pathophysiological processes present in PD. Emerging evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that exercise might contribute to neuroplasticity and neuro-restoration by increasing brain neurotrophic factors, synaptic strength and angiogenesis, as well as stimulating neurogenesis and improving metabolism and the immune response. These changes may be beneficial in improving the central processing of pain. There is also evidence that exercise can activate both the dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic pain inhibitory pathways, suggesting that exercise may help to modulate the experience of pain in PD.

While clinical data on the effects of exercise for pain relief in people with PD are scarce, and are urgently needed, preliminary guidelines are presented for exercise prescription for the management of central neuropathic, peripheral neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain in PD. To read more click the link above.

American Society for Pain Management Nursing (ASPMN) 

The American Society for Pain Management Nursing's mission is to advance and promote optimal nursing care for people affected by pain by promoting best nursing practices. This is accomplished through education, standards, advocacy and research. 

Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE)

NICHE works to ensure that adults age 65 and over receive care that promotes function, autonomy, and dignity. We are the leading nurse-driven program designed to address the complex needs of older adults. NICHE provides the principles, education and tools to support healthcare systems in transforming and achieving patient centered care. The NICHE Knowledge Center houses a variety of geriatric-specific resources and tools to help bridge the geriatric nursing training gap and achieve real improvement in older patient care.

Changing Aging

ChangingAging™ is a pro-age movement challenging conventional views on aging. We believe aging is a strength, rich in developmental potential and growth. Bill Thomas, creator of the Eden Alternative, hosts a blog dedicated to promoting person-centered care by building social network of elders, their advocates, caregivers and families.

The National Indian Council On Aging 

NICOA was founded in 1976 by members of the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association. The mission of NICOA is to advocate for improved comprehensive health, social services, and economic well-being for American Indian and Alaska Native Elders.

Center to Advance Palliative Care 

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is a national organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality health care for people living with a serious illness. As the nation’s leading resource in its field, CAPC provides health care professionals and organizations with the training, tools, and technical assistance necessary to effectively meet this need. CAPC is funded through organizational membership and the generous support of foundations and private philanthropy. It is part of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving 

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving establishes local, state, national, and international partnerships committed to building quality, long-term, home and community-based services. They believe this begins with providing caregivers with effective supports to promote caregiver health, skills and resilience. They also believe strongly in the need to provide greater recognition for professional and family caregivers. They focus on helping caregivers coping with chronic illness and disability across the lifespan. The RCI overall goal is to support caregivers – both family and professional – through efforts of advocacy, education, research, and service.