Ageism in health care represents the intentional or subconscious discrimination experienced by the elderly people in the provision of medical care (Miller, 2009). Studies conducted by Butler revealed that left over feelings among healthcare professionals past have a bearing on the perceptions of old patients and therefore influence service delivery to the mentioned persons. Butler also mentions cultural attitudes of psychotherapists as a contributing factor to poor healthcare to the aged patients (Miller, 2009).Australian population is aging fastest than before. The older population stood at 13% of the population in 2007 and is projected to reach 24% of the population in the year 2056. The Statistics also show that 80% of Australians above 60 years have experienced some form of ageism (Ferguson, 2012).
Ageism is not an exclusive problem to the Australian society. By 2050, it is expected that 16.3 percent of the population in the world will be aged 65 years and more. Particularly, in England, the number of elderly people that require special medical care is expected to rise above 60% by the year 2060.Statistics indicate that 36.8% of the older English population have experienced age discrimination and the malpractice is prevalent with people aged 65 years and above. The mentioned figure further rises to 37.2% for those aged 70-79 years ((In Eilers, In Gruber, & In Rehmann-Sutter, 2014).These figures allude to a bleak future for the older generation regarding medical care if the current trends are not addressed. Cognizant of these trends, many countries have taken measures to address the problem. In spite of the increased awareness, old people continue to experience discrimination in the provision of medical care.
Age-biased decisions may be as a result of the belief that the elderly patients may be selective on the kind of medication they want. This stereotype has an influence on the medical interventions administered to the elderly patients. The elderly patients may decline some forms of treatment even after being offered to them by the doctors and nurses. Patients with advancing ages may also reject the use of chemotherapy for the patients with cancer (Stricof, 2015). Schulz (2013) argues that there is a need to facilitate the decisions that will reflect on their preferences is by eliciting them at individual levels. The elderly cancer patients were just as the young patients likely to be in need of chemotherapy. After making the choice of receiving treatment, there was a likelihood of not accepting the significant toxicity in exchange for their added survival. For instance, decisions have been made by the physicians to exclude elderly women from trials of treatment in the health care, a clear illustration of the biased health treatment of patients. Concerning age effects, treatment decisions made by the medical workers made at a time when it is inappropriate for physicians to make use of chronological age such as at protocols of trial participations which at a times may include upper limits of the ages (Bala &Canada, 2011). It is important to overcome some of these beliefs especially in of health care centers for the sector to comprehensively address the issue of ageism.
There is little preventive care given to the elderly people. This is because some of the older adults have been found not receiving flu shots and also very fewer get the pneumococcal vaccine which is capable of preventing serious bloodstream infections, or even undergoing cancer screenings (Gullette, 2011). This has resulted in very many deaths that could be avoided if preventive measures were taken. All this could be due to lack of awareness as well as education on the part of both physicians and patients. These treatment attitudes play a significant role in the disparities of preventive measures of screening that are administered to elderly patients. Research findings have also established that doctors are less aggressive in times of recommending preventive measures to the elderly patients (Susman, 2014)
Ageism in health care centers leads to an untimely death of the elderly patients. The elderly patiently are likely to receive fewer expected life years as compared to the young patients from life-sustaining treatments. For instance, at a time when the patients need transplantation of organs, as well as treatment in the sections of the intensive care unit, many elderly patients with organs that are very threatening, will die while waiting for organs for transplantation (Doron & Soden, 2012). If the criterion used for selection of patients that are in need of organ transplant is the expected years of life, then the younger patients will be considered. The younger patients are projected to live longer and therefore are preferred in the distribution of scarce organs for transplant (Gullette, 2011). Besides, when physicians are forced to make a selection of the patients to admit to the ICU particularly in a time when there is the scarcity of beds, the situation will become one of a physical and not just making considerations using economy or scarcity of the resources in question (Hanks, 2011). More priority will be given to the younger patients for the life-sustaining care. Such practices propagate discrimination and aggravate the problem of health care for the aged.
Ageism in health care centers may lead to self-stigma. The elderly patients may begin believing in the negative thoughts expressed by the others, and this will make them think that they will never get well and thus lack of the need for getting the care or even feel they are responsible for their illness (Doron & Soden, 2012). Doron and Soden also argue that such treatment of elderly may develop feelings of shame, resulting in the lowering their self-esteem and also make them feel that they cannot accomplish their goals. Gullette (2011) adds that self-stigma may also lead the elderly patients to have a development of the why to try effect. They decide to hide the illness or even refuse to receive any medical care.
Creation of awareness in the health care may also go a long way in addressing ageism in healthcare centers. Awareness should be raised on the views of the older patients. The more elderly patients have a feeling that they should be treated with some dignity. Discriminating them may deteriorate their skills, their self-confidence as well as the ability to take care of themselves. Health care workers should also be taught on the importance of valuing the elderly patients (in Matzo & In Sherman, 2015). Also, there is a need for the achievement of a culturally-competent care. Cultural competence will relate to the ability of the individuals to treat every individual with respect, dignity and also fairness, in a way that can sensitively respond to the differences and similarities and thereby contribute to the creation of a genuinely inclusive culture (Kennedy-Mallone, Fletcher, &Plank, 2014). For Nurses to be able to achieve this, they will be required to make an examination of their values, beliefs as well as their cultural identity as well as understanding discrimination and racism in all its forms (Marianne, 2014). Moreover, awareness should also be raised on the psychological changes that are brought about by age such as Dementia; this is an irreversible deterioration associated with the intellectual ability that is typically accompanied by disturbances of emotions. It is different from the milder forms of mental decline for the individuals usually aging (Kennedy-Mallone, Fletcher, &Plank, 2014). The young healthcare professionals need to understand at one time they will grow old and will wish to be given special care by the workers of the healthcare.
It is important for health care professionals to consider the physical, emotional as well as psychological aspects of patients. The health care professionals should have the ability to address the emotional needs of the elderly patients as it factors out into the perceptions of the overall experience of the care given to them, the providers as well as the entire organization (Miller, 2010). Taking care of psychological stress in the older adults, enables them to take their medication serious, to obtain tests that are necessary as well as procedures and also preventive medical care (Chouinard, Hall, & Wilton, 2010). Helping the elderly patients in achieving their psychological health is very essential for maintenance of their health, in general, the quality of life as well as their well-being. Health care professionals need to understand that as the elderly individuals are prone to developing chronic health problems (Knoles & Mikocka-walus, 2014). For them to adjust it will depend on how well their conditions can be controlled. At a time, the elderly patients may behave like children, health care providers should know how to handle them so as not to discourage them from seeking for services in the health care.
Healthcare professionals need to pay more attention to nursing practice standards so as to deliver quality healthcare to older patients. Most healthcare professionals have been found with superior familiarity of pathological aging than healthy aging (Doron & Soden, 2012). Such a scenario calls for advanced communication skills because these individuals often experience communication problems as a result of aging (Balzer-Riley, 2011).Balzer-Riley indicates that some healthcare professionals use patronizing language when communication with older patients. Often, this choice of words is misconstrued by aged people as a show of improper behavior or mistreatment. According to Balzer-Riley, healthcare professionals need to recognize the intergenerational differences while communicating with older patients. Liu (2016) reinforces the Balzer-Rileys findings by advising that nurses need to understand that age is an influential factor in an individuals verbal and non-verbal communication skills. As a result, it requires professionals who understand this intergenerational disparity for effective delivery of healthcare to aged people.
Healthcare professionals are encouraged to adhere to the ethical standards as spelt out in the healthcare regulatory institutions. These legal codes guide nurse across the country on the minimum expectations in healthcare. Research findings by Balzer-Riley (2011) found out that information exchange is a major problem in the treatment of older patients. The mentioned aspects influence the treatment decision-making process. It is critical for healthcare professionals to adhere to the ethical standard of autonomy of patients before making decisions about diagnosis and therapy of older patients because it is enshrined in the legal ethics of nursing despite the existence of ethical dilemmas in such decision-making process (Doron & Soden, 2012).Also, nonmaleficence is healthcare provide essential guidelines that require health professionals to embrace compassion in service delivery. According to Brownell and Kelly (2013), taking positive actions that avoid harm on old people is practice that cannot be in strict sense be sanctioned by the law. It rests upon the health professionals capacity to embrace compassion as a virtue.
In spite of the substantial allocation of resources to the improvement of healthcare for the aged, the older people continue to face challenges seeking for treatment in health facilities due to discrimination.Decisions that are biased on issues with age could be as a result of a belief held by the healthcare providers in administering particular medication aged patients. Ageism in health care centers may cause the untimely death of elderly patients. Ageism in health care centers can also lead to self-stigma. In respect of handling aged patients, healthcare professionals need to embrace the psychological, social and biological aspects of the old patients. Also, advanced communication skills are essential in information exchange with the patients. Furthermore, awareness can also be created in the healthcare centers to sensitize all stakeholders on better and humane ways of handling the elderly patients.
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