As the population ages and technology advances, people are living longer. This is especially true in the United States, where life expectancy rank has climbed steadily for more than a century.
It is true that technology plays a huge part in improving the health of our aging adults. However, we must also take into account how primary care doctors and general practitioners tried their best to inform people about their health.
But today’s older adults are not nearly as well-informed about their own health as they need to be as they struggle with technology. Some of them even struggle with reading comprehension and understanding written materials.
Sadly, these difficulties lead many older adults to make unhealthy lifestyle choices that have negative impacts on their physical, mental, and emotional health.
But in light of this new reality, it’s essential that a general care physician takes an honest look at what’s working. It’s also important to see where they can improve programs that support older adult wellness.
There are many ways in which primary care providers can improve older adult health literacy. Methods include providing clear and concise information, using plain language, and using visual aids. But are there more? This article will discuss some important ways to do just that.
What is Older Adult Health Literacy?
Older adult health literacy is the ability of adults aged 65 and over to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. The info and services are needed to make informed decisions about their health.
This includes reading and understanding prescription labels, doctor’s instructions, and health education materials. It also includes knowing the basics of technology, such as calling 911 or simply searching doctor near me in search engines. This way, they can have access to a primary care doctor who will educate them.
Why is Older Adult Health Literacy Important?
Older adults face unique challenges when it comes to health literacy. They may have trouble understanding and using health information due to age-related changes in vision, hearing, and cognition.
Older adults with low health literacy are more likely to have poorer health outcomes, including an increased risk of hospitalization. They also have higher rates of medication errors and greater difficulty managing chronic diseases.
Additionally, many older adults take multiple medications, which can make it difficult to keep track of all the instructions. This can lead to errors in taking medications, which can, in turn, cause serious health problems.
Health literacy is important for older adults because it can help them to better understand their health conditions, treatments, and medications. It can also help them to make informed decisions about their health care.
When older adults have good health literacy, they are more likely to stay healthy and independent.
Ways PCPs can Improve Older Adult Literacy
1. Create a Welcoming Environment
One common reason why patients may not have proficient health literacy is that they don’t trust their healthcare providers or primary care doctor. It can be challenging for elderly patients to talk about sensitive health topics with nurses or doctors. They might not like them, feel embarrassed, or feel like they’re burdening them.
There may be various reasons why patients don’t like their primary health physician, such as language or cultural differences, or simply a general dislike.
For example, if healthcare professionals come across as rude, direct, or dismissive, this can erode the trust patients have in them.
It is, therefore, the duty of PCPs to ensure they create a warm and welcoming environment for their patients. Their staff must also make them feel welcome and relaxed for the patients to open up to them sufficiently.
They can do this by maintaining eye contact during conversations and greeting all new patients with a smile.
2. Provide Concise Information
One of the most important ways that a general care physician can improve older adult health literacy is by providing concise information at a measured pace.
When communicating with older adults, it is important to speak at a pace that they can easily understand. You should ensure to provide information in small chunks and avoid overwhelming older adults with too much information at once.
Additionally, primary care providers should make sure to clarify any information that may be confusing or unclear.
3. Use Plain Language
Another way to improve older adult health literacy is by using plain language. When communicating with older adults, it is essential to use simple words that can be easily understood. This means avoiding jargon and complex sentences. It will also be helpful if primary care doctors are as straightforward as possible when educating.
4. Use Visual Aids
Visual aids can be extremely helpful in improving older adult health literacy. When used correctly, visual aids can help to clarify information and make it easier to understand.
Some examples of visual aids that can be used include pictures, simple diagrams, charts, and graphs. It is vital to choose visual aids that are appropriate for the information being conveyed and the audience.
5. Engage in Active Listening
Active listening is another key way to improve older adult health literacy. Active listening is fully concentrating on what is being said, taking time to understand the points being made. It is also asking questions as appropriate and not interrupting.
When engaging in active listening with your patients, you must ensure that you give them your full attention. It is important for primary care doctors to make their patients as validated as possible. You can also ask questions and encourage them to ask their question so you can be sure they fully understand.
6. Be Culturally Competent
Being culturally competent is another vital way to improve older adult health literacy. When interacting with older adults, it is crucial to be aware of and respectful of their cultural beliefs and practices. Be aware of potential language barriers and ensure all communication is received and understood.
As a primary care doctor, one must also be aware that different cultures might have food and diet restrictions that could affect the medication.
7. Provide Follow-Up Resources
A primary care doctor can improve older adult health literacy by providing follow-up resources. After interacting with older adults, it is important to provide them with resources that they can use to educate themselves further about their health.
These resources might include books, websites, pamphlets, or contact information for support groups or health educators. It is also essential to make sure that the resources are appropriate for the individual’s needs and level of understanding.
There are many ways in which primary care doctors and providers can improve older adult health literacy. Some of the key ways are by providing precise and concise information. As discussed in this article, they include using plain language, visual aids, and engaging in active listening. They also include being culturally competent and providing follow-up resources.
By taking these steps, primary care providers can help to ensure that older adults have the information they need to make informed decisions about their health.