The older we get the more we need to fight for good health care

Posted on February 25, 2013


The rate of inappropriate drug use in the elderly varies from 14% of those living at home in their community to 40.3% in nursing home residents.

The rate of inappropriate drug use in the elderly varies from 14% of those living at home in their community to 40.3% in nursing home residents.

As we get older assuming we will get good health care is not a good idea.  The older we get the more we need to fight for good health care for ourselves and our elderly family members.

For some questions there is no right answer.

  • Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
  • Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

Here is another one.  If anyone, at any age can get sick, why do we not believe the elderly when they complain?

Many elderly will tell you that they don’t get good medical care because they are not listened to because of their age.  They say their complaints are ignored or brushed aside – and they will tell you it is because they are older.  As it turns out, they may be right.

The elderly population faces triple jeopardy from our health care system.  They are more likely to be sick and when they speak of a pain or symptom these potential warning signs are more likely to be written off as age related rather than symptomatic of a problem. And then, if they are suffering from an illness, studies have suggested that physicians consider a patient’s advanced age when deciding on the type and level of health care services the patient needs.  So, even if you are sick, and even if they do believe you, you may not get the type of care that someone younger would get.

This is like playing poker with someone using a stacked deck – how do you win.

A groundbreaking 2006 report, Ageism in America, prepared by the Anti-Ageism Taskforce found that:

  • 35 percent of doctors erroneously consider an increase in blood pressure to be a normal process of aging.
  • 60 percent of adults over 65 do not receive recommended preventive services, and 40 percent do not receive vaccines for flu and pneumonia. They also receive even less preventive care for high blood pressure and cholesterol than those that are younger.
  • Only 10 percent of people aged 65 and over receive appropriate screening tests for bone density, colorectal and prostate cancer, and glaucoma. This despite the fact that the average age of colorectal cancer patients is 70, more than 70 percent of prostate cancer is diagnosed in men over 65, and people over 60 are six times more likely to suffer from glaucoma.

This is true with drug side effects as well – the elderly are more likely to suffer side-effects from medications and their symptoms are more likely to go unrecognized.

Here are some tips on how to avoid poor medical care that comes with simply being older:

  • Staying at home, or in a home setting will decrease the chances of inappropriate drug use.  The rate of inappropriate drug use varied from 14% in community-dwelling elderly to 40.3% in nursing home residents.  Medical errors in patients within facilities are responsible for between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year.
  • Seniors need to take more control over health care treatments and options. Ask questions. Gone are the days when the word of a physician was not to be questioned. Yes, they are trained in their field, but it’s one’s own body. Health care in the 21st century needs to be in the hands of both medical health care professionals and seniors.
  • Parents and family caregivers and caregiving staff serving as in-home eldercare caregivers positions need to encourage positive attitudes toward aging to children in the home. Ageism is about attitude, and attitudes can change with education, familiarity and understanding.
  • Family caregivers, caregiving staff serving as in-home eldercare caregivers, whether engaged in adult home care, assisted living or nursing home care scenarios need to speak out and speak up for those they care for.

Be ready for any situation – read up and be prepared to keep your independence.

Don’t look back – how to stay out of the hospital after being discharged

Seniors stay safe at home, ask for in-home care

My Crisis Action Plan

Caring for seniors at home can require thoughtful steps to keep them safe

List of Questions to Ask When Making the Medical Decisions

BrightStar provides quality non-medical and medical care that enables seniors to live happier and healthier lives at home. Our elder care services are distinguished by the caliber of our in home caregivers, our dedicated staff.  We can provide care for an hour or you can leverage our expertise in live-In care. We understand the evolving needs of older adults and focus have a broad range of services to accommodate any client needs.