In less than 20 years, the number of people age 65 and older will be over 71 million, double that of a decade ago. This age group will represent almost 20% of the U.S. population according to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau. By the middle of the century, the number of Americans over 80 is expected to increase to nearly 32 million, with 1 million, celebrating their 100th birthdays.
Even though older Americans represent only 14% of this country’s population, this age group uses 33% of all healthcare services and occupies almost 50% of a physician’s time.
Because of the more complex nature of treatment for an older population, including multiple chronic conditions and medications, medical professionals trained in geriatric care best serve this population. However, primary care physicians, general practitioners, and family doctors are increasingly called upon to diagnose and prescribe treatment, sometimes with fatal results.
Five Tips for Doctors and Patients to Partner for Optimal Medical Care
- Patients: Create a list of 3 issues to discuss with your doctor. List these in priority order to ensure your top issues are covered during the limited time you have with the doctor.
- Doctors: Communicate clearly with your patients. First, listen to what they say. Take notes in order to help you and your patients stay focused. Discuss tests, care, and treatment options, the reasons for, and risks/side effects of each. Make sure your patients understand the recommended care plan. Be certain your patients have heard you, especially, if they’re older. Ask them to rephrase what they heard you say.
- Patients: Bring a list of your medications, supplements, and other treatments to your doctor’s appointment. Write to us at The Caregivers Voice and we’ll send you an easy-to-use Rx matrix.
- Doctors: Be patient with your older patients. Visualize talking with your own cherished elder family member. Commit to devoting extended time with your older patient, periodically.
- Patients: Take notes and, if needed, bring a family, friend, or patient advocate with you to the doctor’s office. An advocate should be there to give you strength to ask the questions you wanted to ask the doctor and take notes on what the doctors says.
Together, patients and doctors can take steps to communicate more openly, clearly, and meaningfully, ensuring better medical care. Following these five tips will reduce misdiagnoses, increase patient-doctor satisfaction, ensure greater adherence to treatment recommendations, and reduce the risk of fatalities.