Managing an illness or injury is tricky in the best of circumstances. There are complicated medication routines and new terminology. You have to make treatment decisions, which can sometimes involve difficult choices. You have to coordinate your care among multiple doctors. All of these tasks must be accomplished while you are feeling ill or in pain; and likely emotionally overwhelmed by the change in your health. When you combine these demands with the difficulties associated with getting older, it is easy to see why it can be hard for those over 65 to properly manage their own healthcare. No doubt about it, there are concerns for older patients that one must consider.
Research shows that patients over 65 can struggle to manage healthcare.
A recent study analyzed survey results of over 2,000 US patients who were at least 65 years old. The study found that 40% of these older adult patients could not manage the complexities of navigating the healthcare system.
Specifically, the research found:
- It was “sometimes” or “often” hard for these patients and their families to manage health care activities.
- Older patients sometimes delayed, or even skipped, recommended healthcare activities.
- Dealing with everything involved in managing healthcare was too much for many.
What can you do about concerns for older patients?
If you are over 65, or helping to care for someone over 65, it is important to take steps to improve healthcare management. I suggest the following:
- If possible, find a gerontologist – they receive special training in the medical needs of older people.
- Look for a doctor’s practice that provides “patient-centered” or “person-centered” care.
- Stay organized – take careful notes at appointments and/or record appointments (ask for permission before recording). Bring these notes with you to each doctor appointment or hospital visit.
- Pay close attention to medication management. Since older people are often on multiple medications, it’s important to pay special care to medication for seniors:
- The patient should always carry a list of their medications (with dosage information), including over the counter medications and supplements.
- Be sure each doctor has a up to date list of all medications taken to reduce the risk of an adverse drug interaction. One study found that the risk of an adverse drug interaction is 82% for patients who are taking 7 or more medications.
- If possible, fill all medications at the same pharmacy so the pharmacist, and/or the pharmacy computer, can catch potential adverse interactions.
If you are managing the health care of a senior relative, it’s important that you stay engaged in the process to help your loved one get the best care and outcome possible. For tips, read these blog posts:
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- Why Take Detailed Notes at Doctor Appointments?
- Should You Record Medical Appointments?
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- What is the Best Time of Day for Medical Care?