The Issue: Seniors are Often Disregarded in Medical Settings
In her article addressing ageism among doctors, author Liz Seegert explains that “An analysis of National Health and Retirement study data found that 1 in 5 adults over 50 experiences age-related discrimination in health care settings; 1 in 17 said they experience it frequently.” She goes on to explain that this type of discrimination – a disregard for the concerns of seniors in a medical setting – is associated with new or worsening conditions, disabilities, and poorer mental and physical health.
Seegert continues to explain that physicians tend to believe that pain, fatigue, depression, and dependency are a “normal” part of aging and that risks associated with these conditions are undertreated. This is compounded by doctors branding patients noncompliant or “difficult” due to ailments like poor hearing and cognitive decline. Medical professionals tend to be less patient, less engaged, and provide less information on treatable conditions like chronic pain and arthritis, citing them as “just part of old age.” (Seegert, 2019).
Geriatricians Karin Ouchida and Mark Lachs from the American Society on Aging agree, noting that ageism “permeates the attitudes of medical providers, the mindset of older patients, and the structure of the health care system, having a potentially profound influence on the type and amount of care offered, requested, and received.”
But what can we do to combat this issue?