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The other day I was talking to a friend who regularly takes her 85 year old father to medical appointments. She says some of the medics are OK but others just ignore her father and talk to her and she has to politely point out to them that her father is actually the patient and he is perfectly capable of speaking for himself.
Once again this week we have been reminded in the news of how many older people there are in Australia and how many more there will be in the future. This information is provided merely on a cost basis (in this instance how much our pensions will cost) with no indication that we are anything but a burden on the community or the positive ramifications of our numbers. We are actually a huge industry with many opportunities both in marketing terms and in specialised industries including the health industry. There are enough of us now to warrant a Department of Ageing Health as I mentioned last time. If we don’t recognise the situation intelligently costs go up.
I wonder how the medics who engage in the behaviour above would feel if they were treated like this? I wonder if they realise that it makes us feel useless and worthless. Engendering such feelings in their patients can only add to our health problems and therefore health costs. Depression among older people is a major problem which situations like this only contribute to. I remember reading a comment by an older person about her doctor, she reckoned he was OK but he had a deathbed manner! With a feisty reaction like this using a deathbed approach towards her was entirely inappropriate.
Some branches of medicine, such as psychologists, do include training in this field for people entering the profession but even in branches of health where this is provided I suspect it isn’t available as supplementary training for those who have been in the profession for a while. Many people currently practising medicine would have entered the profession before the relatively sudden increase in the number of older people was recognised. They would have had no training in this quite different branch of their profession.
The present situation outlined above causes anguish amongst older people and isn’t the most efficient way to provide medical care for this growing part of the population. It adds to cost.
I also heard about workers in a particular group of residential care facilities being reminded in their induction that they must always treat the residents with respect because after all this is their home. I wish I could feel that this was the instruction given to all staff working in aged care facilities, particularly those who work amongst the frail.
If we don’t recognise older people as the same as the rest of the community but older and perhaps a bit more frail we older people are given the impression that we are useless and add to the costs of helping us.