|Placing trust in doctors to advocate for their health needs, older adults rarely ask for referrals to specialists, specific prescriptions, express concerns or follow-up after medical visits, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University.The findings highlight a disconnect between the expectations of older adults and the realities of a changing health-care system, where doctors have less time to spend with patients.
“These findings are concerning,” said Eva Kahana, Distinguished University Professor and Pierce T. and Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve. “Our data suggests older generations are clinging to how health care used to be, when doctors had more personal relationships and continuity with patients.”
“When patients incorrectly assume actions and advocacy by doctors, this leads to major problems,” Kahana said, “especially for older adults living with one of more chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood-pressure.”
The study shows that older adults (defined as 65 and older) are less likely to advocate for their own health concerns the more they trust the role is being taken on by their doctors.
The findings are especially relevant for minorities and the sickest of patients, who have less access to health care and face particular challenges in finding responsive care, according to previous research.
Among of the study’s other findings:
“Our findings strongly suggest that families of older patients should be ready to step in as advocates for their older relatives,” Kahana said. “And it’s helpful for doctors to be more aware of how older patients see them.”
Published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, the study is based on data from a diverse pool of 806 older adults from a large retirement community in Clearwater, Florida, and others in Orlando, Miami and Cleveland, where Case Western Reserve is located.