All too often, we hear defeating stories from older people explaining their frustration with the medical system. There are a number of reasons seniors are hesitant to visit the doctor or even follow their health care plan like not having their medical concerns taken seriously, having to manage multiple conditions with limited support, and even feeling disrespected by medical professionals. Join our team of experienced in-home care specialists as we identify medical barriers and explore solutions to improve care for our aging loved ones.
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?
The Solution: Providing Support During Doctor’s Visits
Research shows that “low health literacy among the elderly is associated with higher hospitalization rates, an inability to manage chronic diseases, and increased mortality (Baker, et al., 2007; Gazmarian, Williams, Peel, & Baker, 2003; Sudore et al., 2006). Providing additional support during and after doctor’s visits can help seniors vocalize their concerns and pursue and clear path to treatment.
In-home caregivers offer a number of services including transportation to and from appointments, hospital sitting, and managing care plans and medication. With the help of an in-home caregiver, seniors can feel more confident explaining their concerns and requesting they be addressed appropriately. An experienced caregiver can also provide doctors with detailed information about any changes in conditions and disabilities and provide updates on their client’s mental and physical health.
The Issue: Complications from Confusing Medication Schedules
According to the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, medication-related problems are estimated to be one of the top five causes of death in those 65 and older. In fact, poor medication management is a major cause of confusion, depression, falls, disabilities, and loss of independence for seniors. (Seegert, 2019).
The statistics here are staggering:
- One in three seniors who take five or more medications will have at least one bad drug reaction each year
- Two-thirds will require medical attention
- Those over 65 are 2.5 times more likely to visit an emergency room for an adverse drug reaction than younger individuals.
How can we ensure our aging loved ones are taking the appropriate medications and following up with their doctors and specialists?
The Solution: Offering Help with Care Plan and Medication Management
There’s no doubt that as we age, our health care needs become more complex and diverse. The National Council on Aging points out that most adults over 65 have at least one chronic condition, and 77 percent have at least two. Yet these diseases are often poorly managed, according to Seegert, leaving vulnerable patients to juggle multiple medical appointments, tests and medications, and feel overwhelmed and ill-informed, according to leading aging experts. (Seegert, 2019).
The solution may be simpler than you think. A quick conversation with your loved one’s primary care provider and an evaluation of their medications and care plan can help provide much-needed clarity. By asking a doctor directly to review each medication, you are giving them an opportunity to identify any chances for negative interactions between medications prescribed by multiple providers.
In-home caregivers can also help develop and execute effective medication management plans by sorting medications into pill boxes, divided by day and time. They can also provide reminders and help ensure that your loved one is taking their medication in the correct order, under the correct conditions (with or without food, water, etc.). Beyond this, caregivers can pick up prescriptions, explain their dosage and requirements, and carefully observe for any reactions.
Finding the Best Care for Your Aging Loved One
When it comes to care, there are a number of options to choose from and each family will have their own values and needs to consider. At ameriCARE, we seek to provide compassionate, experienced, and certified in-home caregivers that provide support and companionship right in the home. For more information on how to select the appropriate care for yourself or your loved one, take a look at our articles:
- Why Everyone Should Plan for Long-Term Care
- Routine Flexibility Keeps You Happier at Home
- The Important Roles of Professional Caregivers
Contact our team of in-home care specialists to learn more about the care opportunities in your area.