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Anthony Cirillo

Two Thirds of Elders Unable to Comprehend Medication Instructions

By February 27, 2013

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two-thirds of older people are unable to understand the information given to them about their prescription medications, American Medical News reported. To help physicians, nurses and other health professionals, the Gerontological Society of America recently published a guide for communicating with older adults.

The report offers 29 recommendations for avoiding poor communication, such as recognizing one's stereotypes, minimizing background noise, and monitoring and controlling arm movements and other nonverbal behavior when talking with patients. "The report is based in the scientific literature, yet the contributors created something extremely accessible," Jake Harwood, head of the Advisory Board that crafted the report, said in a statement.

Here are the suggestions:

  • Recognize the tendency to stereotype older patients.
  • Avoid speech that might be seen as patronizing.
  • Monitor and control nonverbal behavior.
  • Minimize background noise.
  • Face older adults when speaking with them, with lips at the same level as theirs.
  • Pay close attention to sentence structure.
  • Use visual aids such as pictures and diagrams for clarity.
  • Ask open-ended questions and genuinely listen.
  • Express understanding and compassion.
  • Ask about the patient's living situation and social contacts.
  • Include older patients in the conversation.
  • Customize care by seeking information about the patient's cultural beliefs and values.
  • Engage in shared decision-making.
  • Balance respect for patients' autonomy and stimulating their active participation in their care.
  • Avoid ageist assumptions.
  • Provide information clearly.
  • Use direct, concrete, actionable language.
  • Verify listener comprehension during a conversation.
  • Set specific goals for listener comprehension.
  • Incorporate technical knowledge and emotional appeal when discussing treatment regimens.
  • Focus on enhancing patient satisfaction.
  • Use humor and a direct communication style with caution with patients of non-Western cultures.
  • Help patients with chronic diseases find reputable sources of online support.
  • Consider computers that facilitate collaborative use during patient visits.
  • Maintain a positive tone in speaking with older patients with dementia.
  • Avoid speaking slowly to older adults with dementia.
  • Pose different types of questions to dementia patients based on conversational goals.
  • Simplify sentences when speaking with dementia patients.
  • Use verbatim repetition or paraphrase sentences in speaking with older adults with dementia.

Source: Gerontological Society of America

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