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Helping Providers Communicate Effectively With Senior Patients

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New report offers recommendations for improving communication

The US Administration on Aging forecasts that nearly 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. Now, a new publication from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is intended to assist healthcare providers as they interact with this fastest growing sector of America’s population.

The report, “Communicating With Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works,” is literature for anyone who seeks positive and productive interactions with older patients and is aimed at physicians, nurses, pharmacists, biologists, psychologists, social workers, caregivers, economists, and health policy experts.

Jake Harwood, PhD, head of the Advisory Board that crafted the report said, “[The report] covers the full range of communication issues experienced by older adults and healthcare providers and gives concrete suggestions for dealing with problems when they arise.”

At present, those aged 65 and older visit their physician’s office nearly twice as often per year as adults aged 45 to 65. Yet, two-thirds of older people are unable to understand their doctor’s orders regarding their prescription medications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report offers 29 specific recommendations in 4 categories:

·      General tips for improving communication with older adults

·      General recommendations for improving face-to-face interactions with older adults

·      Tips for improving communication between healthcare professionals and older patients

·      Recommendations for interactions with older adults with dementia

Experts in the fields of gerontology and communications provided the recommendations. Each suggestion includes a brief explanation of the rationale, tips for implementing the recommendation in busy healthcare settings, and selected references for further reading.

“The report distills a large body of empirical research findings and scholarship from several disciplines into a set of concrete recommendations for effective communication with older adults,” said Advisory Board member Daniel G. Morrow, PhD. “The recommendations include nonverbal and verbal strategies that are often grounded in compelling examples that involve common communication challenges.”

“While focused on older adults, the recommendations are relevant to communication across the lifespan,” Morrow said.

Source: The Gerontological Society of America.