Getting older, especially in our youth-obsessed culture, starts feeling overwhelming. After a much-sought retirement, one might expect a period of peace and calm and complete enjoyment. Yet, there are substantial challenges.
Older adults face particular problems due to their age and life circumstances. In this article, we’ll not only be discussing their experiences with health institutions but also our hypocrisy about that.
Let’s see some of the most common problems the seniors encounter
A lot of seniors keep good health and are able to function both physically and mentally well into their later years. However, aging is followed by an inevitable biological decline of the cells leading to various physical and mental health problems.
In terms of the body, aging does mean the weakening of the bone structure and muscles, eyesight and hearing, and mobility as well.Mind-wise, there’s dementia, impacting around one-third of the older population.
That said, about two-thirds of all people 65 or older need assistance with at least one everyday activity such as cooking or bathing. This might be a good time to consider hiring a personal assistant for elderly people.
When it comes to the external paid help, this is what really concerns the elderly- aside from being costly- nursing homes are rumored to provide subpar care.
Like other care-providing institutions, they are likely to be understaffed, directly influencing the neglect and, possibly, abuse of its dwellers. These people are usually unable to do anything about it due to their oftentimes poor health conditions, both mental and physical. The situation gets exponentially worse with mental decline.
Therefore, please research your options properly and find the one that will go an extra mile to treat your loved one with care and dignity.
Why We Need Elderly-friendly Hospitals
According to the qualitative study from 2014, the answer is simple: because the professionals would be better equipped with knowledge and methods to deal with the elderly humanely.
“Along with effective communication, motivation, moral support, pleasant environments are required in older care settings. Furthermore, older patients faced physical discomfort with different quality of beds, difficulties in mobility, and anxiety due to the unpleasant environment while staying for a long period in hospital.
Previous studies revealed that one-third of the older patients showed a decline in physical functional capacity and most of them were unable to recover from the problems due to poor hospital practices.
In addition, an older person has dissatisfactions and concerns related to treatment or care settings, hospital environments, treatment process and communication, motivation, finances, emotional supports, and health professional’s attitudes and behaviors”
The problem extends to the poor information dissemination as well- the patients aren’t always informed properly about their issue, treatment, and prognosis.
To finish off, the study underlines the importance of “pleasing words”- utterly desired by older patients. Kindness is the simplest step, do you agree?
What’s the Message
There has been a trend in the US- at more than 20 medical schools, students are learning about seniors from- seniors. The goal is to fight ageism stereotypes by talking to healthy older patients, because seeing only the hospitalized, possibly demented ones, whose health is deteriorating, leaves a lot of room for the ageist cliche.
“You hear that people are not worth treating because of their age.”
Leaning on the above-mentioned study’s phrase “pleasing words”, there is a huge impact of the message conveyed by the health professionals.
What various focus groups underline is that older patients dislike unfiltered and patronizing messages, focusing on the negative outcome, such as “You can die if you keep taking sugar”. Instead, what resonates better with the elderly is something like “this and this will help you stay independent”.
Older patients feel that doctors could do more to reduce risks of various outcomes, and it’s not just by giving some general advice- lists of quick remedies are rarely effective: something like- “you should walk more” or “lose some wight”.
What’s necessary is a more tailor-made approach and incentives to better motivate the elderly. Moreover, what is of paramount importance to seniors is their doctors’ real involvement because then they take their medical advice more seriously.
What else do they encounter?
Due to the mentioned ageism, health professionals tend to dismiss their patients. They may say something like: “You cannot expect more at your age”, “You should be happy that you can walk at your age”. Sometimes professionals see diagnosis and prognosis, and not the human behind it.
But, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Do we REALLY care?
Let’s be honest: how do YOU treat and think of older people? Are we afraid of getting old ourselves? Does it remind us of our own mortality? There’s something to this hypocrisy.
Namely, we expect institutions, hence, doctors and nurses to rise above the rest of the humans, including ourselves.
Blaming others, including institutions, laws, lack of finances, etc. only shifts responsibility and alleviates our discomfort with the very unfortunate truth- older unhealthy people remind us of death and we are uncomfortable around them.
Then we want other people (yes, they are professionals, but we are talking about the underlying principle here) to assume responsibility and whole-heartedly CARE about them.
So, how can we shift accountability? Can we start celebrating old age for what it stands for- the symbol of wisdom and life experience, not just the impending death?
If you agree with this social line of thinking, read this brilliant article.
It says that if we as a society level up our game and start appreciating diversity, including wrinkly, slow, old, weak, demented seniors, we don’t have to just expect from the institutions to show up with better staff and more money.
“Such actions are ultimately bandaids.”
Then it adds: “Currently, we are conflicted: we use every modern technological wizardry, regardless of cost, to show how clever we are at saving lives; then, we complain that our successes are a burden on society.”
Of course, more money may motivate professionals and increase overall quality, but we’re not sure it will involve the seniors’ needs and how they feel.
The older and more diseased the people get, the less seen and heard they feel. Along with fears, depression, sometimes aggression, immobility, come great dependability.
On top of everything, they have to face the ugly truth- they are inconvenient.
There’s a lot that can be done to alter the situation, but we have to take the first step- start celebrating the elderly at least as much as we celebrate the youth.
How about that?
AuthorBio: Anne Harris is an HR specialist working for londonlive-incare.com. She eagerly shares her knowledge with her audience on various blogs. When she isn’t writing or attending wellness conferences, she likes to pack her rucksack and ride her day away on her bike or spend time with her friends.