Personal networks are an important factor in people’s daily lives. People who are embeded in a network of personal relationships experience a higher level of well-being than those who are socially isolated.The following is a critical reflection analysis about themes that I found to be most meaningful during the course of the term. The themes include the importance of a social network for the older adult, as well as how this type of network can impact their quality of life. An exploration of these themes will be provided using literature along with my own personal experience. This reflection will highlight the insight that I have gained from this analysis as it relates to my future nursing practice. In addition this reflection will address nursing implications for providing superior client relations.
Exploration of Themes
Social relationships of older adults along with their access to social support networks can influence the general health and well being of this population ( ). The existences of social support networks are important for the older adult’s identity, self-respect, social integration, feeling of security, companionship, as well as practical and emotional support. For example, my grandparents live alone, however, at the same time they have a network of friends, relatives and inter-faith community members on which they can depend on. On the other hand, my neighbour who is 76 years and widowed, is isolated from meaningful and supportive social relationships. My insight into the plight of the elderly, combined with my compassion towards this vulnerable population, compels me to visit her home and spend prolonged time in conversation. We talk at length about her day, her baking, and her fond memories. My neighbour often expresses a deep sense of appreciation for my frequent visits and I feel satisfacation that she allows me to participate in her enthusiasm and happiness.
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A social network can stimulate the mind of the older adult as well as increase their level of energy and motivation. If the older adult lacks the support of a social network, it can often lead to isolation and depression ( ). There are a variety of social factors that contribute to an older adult being socially isolated. This includes being female, having a low income, being widowed or divorced, are experiencing family conflicts, and lastly who are experiencing ageism (BC article). According to these criteria, my neighbour is definitely at risk of being socially isolated. Evidence suggests that there are health promoting effects of social relationships. Socially isolated older adults have a two-fold increase in mortality from all causes (Jeannette, 2009). A lack of social support among the older adult population has been associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes in older age, ranging from depression and self-harm, to deteriorating physical health. (Jeanneate) (Dennis et al., 2005). Research supports that various types of social support from different sources are associated with positive health outcomes. Social relationships are also thought to be a key factor in psychological health including an individual’s happiness and subjective well being (tomaka).
In a study that looked at the ranking of importance of different aspects of life for adults over the age of 65, they consistently ranked their relationships with their family and friends as the second most important factor after their health (Kobayashi, Cloutier-Fisher & Roth, 2008). Among the older adult population, the social integration and overall participation in society are considered vital indicators of productive and health ageing ( ). According to the World Health Organization (2003), social support for the older adult population has a strong protective effect on overall health and can influence their quality of life (QOL). The QOL for the older adult that have chronic illnesses and who live at home are highly influenced by the presence of and the accessibility to social networks. Therefore, finding ways to help older adults engage in social networks that are productive and enjoyable is an important aspect of ageing.
Future Nursing Practice and Nursing Implications
Throughout my analysis, I have gained a great deal of insight with regard to the importance of a having a social network and its impact on the QOL of older adults. It has increased my awareness and compassion to the importance of friends, family and community support in creating a social network for the older adult in order to maintain or increase their overall QOL. It is important to reduce the amount of isolation that older adults face – even those that have families. In practice, it is paramount for nurses to be aware of the older adult’s social support networks, along with advocating for the creation of further networks in order to tailor to the complex needs of older adults. Upon reflection, I would use Newman’s theory of Health as Expanding Consciousness as my approach when I consider the importance of ensuring that social support networks are in place for my clients prior to discharge from a hospital. Newman (2004) describes human beings as open energy systems in constant interaction with the environment. Therefore, the way for nurses to understand the health of an older adult is by understanding the individual’s pattern of relating to the environment. Thus being said, the social network of an adult is crucial to reduce dependency among the older adult population by improving time spent with this group and having more interaction with the elderly (Souraya & LeClerc, 2008)
In conclusion, despite the salience of recent studies devoted to ageism that examines social support and well-being, this body of nursing research has paid limited attention to the increasing prevalence of social isolation among older adults in Canada or its relationship with health status. More research is needed in these areas as older adult Canadians are living longer, alone, and with a reduced number of social contacts (McPherson, 2004). Social isolation is not an easy topic for policy. It is a problem that cannot be identified with more familiar social topics as education, economic independence, societal participation and social cohesion. Nurses need to advocate on the importance of gaining emotional, practical and relational support for this population.
This reflection has brought up the issue of mental health among the older adult population. From a personal standpoint, it saddens me to see the lack of interaction that exist among the older adult population suffering from a mental illness. I believe that further attention needs to be focused in this area by creating more social support programs and increasing access to these services for this cohort. As a result of this experience I have become more professionally attentive to my interactions with the older adult client on the units that I am working on. Being empathetic has made me realize that it must be challenging for the older adult to be looked after as they were once independent individuals who could take care of themselves. I can see how nurses can become frustrated with this population combined with a heavy workload, but I do feel that this population carries with them a lot of wealth and wisdom.
Identification of theme(s) in your reflective writing.
Exploration and analysis of themes that are most meaningful to you
Significant learning or insights gained from your analysis that will guide your practice
Choose any 2 topics; use references; combination reflection + scholarly
Jeannette, G., et al. (2009). Loneliness, social support networks, mood and wellbeing in community-dwelling elderly. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,24 (7): 694- 700.
Tomaka, J., Thompson, S., Palacios, S. (2006). The relation of social isolation, loneliness, and social support to disease outcomes among the elderly. Journal of Ageing and Health, 18(3), 359-384.
Kobayashi, K., Cloutier-Fisher, D., & Roth, M. (2008). Making meaningful connections: a profile of social isolation and health among older adults in small town and small city, British Columbia. Journal of aging and health, 21(2), 374.
When measuring the level of access that older adults have to social support networks or the risk of social isolation, it can provide a valuable means to gathering information on their living arrangements (stats can).
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