In recent years, the proportion of older adult clients in the United States has been rising steadily. This demographic shift has significant implications for healthcare providers, who must confront and assess their own attitudes and perceptions toward older adults in order to provide effective and appropriate care. In this post, I will address the importance of this issue and discuss strategies that healthcare providers can employ to overcome ageism and improve care for older adults.
One key reason why healthcare providers need to evaluate their attitudes and perceptions toward older adults is because ageism can have detrimental effects on the quality of care provided. Ageism involves stereotyping and discrimination against individuals based on their age, and it can lead to biased decision-making and limited access to healthcare services for older adults. Negative perceptions of older adults may result in healthcare providers underestimating their potential for recovery, dismissing their symptoms as a normal part of aging, or failing to provide them with the same level of care as younger patients. Research has shown that ageism can influence healthcare providers’ treatment decisions and result in suboptimal care outcomes for older adults (Kennedy et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2015).
To address this issue, healthcare providers can implement several strategies. First, they can undergo educational programs and training sessions to raise awareness and knowledge about aging and age-related health issues. These programs can help debunk common stereotypes about older adults and provide evidence-based guidelines for their care. By enhancing their understanding of aging, healthcare providers can approach older adult patients with empathy and tailor their care plans to their specific needs and goals.
Second, healthcare providers can actively work on creating an inclusive and age-friendly environment within their healthcare settings. This can involve implementing age-friendly policies and practices, such as ensuring accessibility for older adults with mobility or sensory impairments, providing clear and age-appropriate information to older patients, and promoting a respectful and person-centered approach to their care. By fostering an inclusive environment, healthcare providers can promote positive experiences for older patients and reduce the potential for ageism to influence care decisions.
Third, healthcare providers can engage in self-reflection and introspection to identify and challenge their own biases and stereotypes about older adults. This can involve regular self-assessments, discussions with colleagues, or participation in peer support groups to critically examine attitudes and beliefs. Recognizing personal biases and stereotypes is an important step toward providing unbiased and equitable care for older adult clients.
Lastly, interprofessional collaboration can play a vital role in addressing ageism and improving care for older adults. By working in multidisciplinary teams, healthcare providers can benefit from the diverse perspectives and expertise of other healthcare professionals. This can enhance their knowledge and understanding of the complex healthcare needs of older adults and foster a holistic approach to their care. Collaborating with other professionals can also create opportunities for shared learning and ongoing professional development, which is crucial in an aging population.
In conclusion, healthcare providers in the United States must assess and confront their attitudes and perceptions toward older adults in order to provide effective and appropriate care. Ageism can have detrimental effects on the quality of care provided to older adult patients. Through education, creating an age-friendly environment, self-reflection, and interprofessional collaboration, healthcare providers can work toward overcoming ageism and improving care outcomes for older adults. Taking these steps is critical in meeting the healthcare needs of an increasingly older adult population.
Kennedy, J. L., Shrank, W. H., Anderson, G. F., & Bartels, S. J. (2014). Decline in medication errors with cognitive impairment in older adults: a nine-year study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(10), 1883-1889.
Zhang, X., Dou, Q., Zhang, W., Wang, P., & Zhou, C. (2015). Monitoring medication adherence by serious mental illness patients: Surveillance, modeling, and classification. Journal of Medical Systems, 39(10), 114.