Ageism in health care is more common than you might think, and it can harm people

SHOTS HEALTH NEWS – A recent study found that older people spend an average of 21 days a year on medical appointments. Kathleen Hayes can believe it.

Hayes lives in Chicago and has spent a lot of time lately taking her parents, who are both in their 80s, to doctor’s appointments. Her dad has Parkinson’s, and her mom has had a difficult recovery from a bad bout of Covid-19.

As she’s sat in, Hayes has noticed some health care workers talk to her parents at top volume, to the point, she says, “that my father said to one, ‘I’m not deaf, you don’t have to yell.'”

In addition, while some doctors and nurses address her parents directly, others keep looking at Hayes herself.

“Their gaze is on me so long that it starts to feel like we’re talking around my parents,” says Hayes, who lives a few hours north of her parents. “I’ve had to emphasize, ‘I don’t want to speak for my mother. Please ask my mother that question.'”

...article continued below
- Advertisement -

“At my medical school we only get two weeks to teach about older people in a four-year curriculum.” – Dr. Louise Aronson

Researchers and geriatricians say that instances like these constitute ageism – discrimination based on a person’s age – and it is surprisingly common in health care settings.

It can lead to both overtreatment and undertreatment of older adults, says Dr. Louise Aronson, a geriatrician and professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We all see older people differently. Ageism is a cross-cultural reality,” Aronson says.

Ageism creeps in, even when the intent is benign, says Aronson, who wrote the book, Elderhood. “We all start young, and you think of yourself as young, but older people from the very beginning are other … “

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -


- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -