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How to Gauge—and Correct—Your Own Age - Wood

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For you, your career, and your life
Vol. IV No. 3
Resident Assistance Program Newsletter
September 2007
How to Gauge—and Correct—
Your Own Age Bias
It might be your tone of voice.
It might be the way you address
a patient. It might be the way
you rush through a patient visit
or become impatient when you
have to repeat yourself. It may
be the way you dismiss a health
concern that would be taken
more seriously in a younger
patient. Without realizing it,
you, your staff, or even your
mentors may be treating older
patients differently. Call it a
generational disconnect, age bias
or stereotyping. It’s important to
recognize the hazards of dealing
ineffectively with patients who
are not of your generation.
“Stereotypes about aging and
old age lead patients and
Before you contradict an old
man, my fair friend, you should
endeavor to understand him.
- George Santayana (1863 - 1952)
physicians alike to dismiss or
minimize problems as an
inevitable part of aging,” notes
Richard J. Hodes, MD, Director
of the National Institute on
Aging at the National Institutes
of Health in his introduction to
the NIA publication “Working
with Your Older Patient: A
Clinician’s Handbook.”
“Just getting old does not
cause illness,” Hodes states.
“Being old does not mean
having to live with pain and
discomfort. Clinicians may,
without realizing it, allow
stereotypes about aging to creep
into everyday medicine. These
attitudes do not reflect what
research and practice tell us.”
“Keep in mind that older
patients are diverse and
unique, just like younger
patients,” Hodes advises. “You
may see frail 60-year olds, and
you may see relatively healthy
80-year olds. Your patients may
represent the cultural diversity
that typifies America.”
Understanding how to
communicate with and treat
older patients is an essential
There are inevitable
challenges that accompany your
residency experience. You don’t
have to face them alone. When
you need some extra support or a
fresh perspective to deal with a
difficult situation, your Resident
Assistance Program can help.
Our professionals offer
counseling, coaching and
referrals to resources that can
help you excel as a physician.
Call us at 813-870-3344.
part of medicine. Yet fewer than
3 percent of health care
providers have training to treat
older patients, reports the
Alliance for Aging Research
(AAR). “This lack of geriatric
training is a crisis that will only
grow as the Baby Boomer
generation ages.”1
“Physicians who would not
hesitate to prescribe exercise
regimens, smoking cessation
programs or cholesterol
lowering strategies to 45-yearold patients often hesitate to
prescribe such therapies to older
patients, though evidence shows
they would benefit,” the AAR
report adds.
Being aware of your own
assumptions and adapting your
communication style, if
necessary, can improve your
ability to treat older patients. A
respectful tone and form of
Continued on next page
Medical Never-Never Land:
Ten Reasons Why America is Not Ready
for the Coming Age Boom,” a report by
the Alliance for Aging Research, 2002
Four Easy Ways to
Manage Your Cash
The easiest way to be successful
with a cash management program is
to develop a systematic and
disciplined approach.
By spending a few minutes each
week to maintain your cash
management program, you can
enhance your current financial
position and can save yourself some
money in tax preparation, time and
Any good cash management
system revolves around the four As:
Accounting, Analysis, Allocation and
Accounting means gathering
and keeping your financial
information in one place. List all
your financial information — such as
mortgage payments, credit card
statements and car loans to get a
clear picture of your overall
Analysis is reviewing where you
stand once you have accounted for all
your income and expenses. It can
help you see where you are ahead or
behind on your financial goals.
Allocation involves determining
your financial commitments and
priorities and distributing your
income accordingly.
Adjustment involves reviewing
your income and expenses
periodically and making the changes
that your situation demands.
For more cash management tips,
visit the Muniz & Associates
Learning Center at
Julio C. Muniz, a Certified Financial
Planner (CFP) and a Chartered Life
Underwriter (CLU). Muniz and
Associates, 813-258-0033
Correcting Age Bias, continued
address, as well as a willingness to slow the pace of a visit, can
make a huge difference when you are dealing with the health
concerns of an older patient.
Patients who feel they’ve been heard and understood are more
likely to follow doctors’ orders. They are more likely to adhere to
treatment and so to have better outcomes. And, patients who rate
their doctors high on communication skills are less inclined to bring
malpractice suits. Getting past your own biases and stereotypes and
learning better ways to communicate with and treat older patients
is worth the investment in time and energy.
“Don’t Call Me Edna and I Won’t Call You Sonny”
Establish respect right away by using formal language: Mr.,
Mrs., Ms., and so on. You might ask your patient about preferred
forms of address and how she or he would like to address you.
Avoid using familiar terms, like “dear” and “hon,” which tend to
sound patronizing. Be sure to talk to your staff about the
importance of being respectful to all of your patients, especially
those who are older and perhaps used to more formal terms of
Introduce yourself clearly. Show from the start that you accept
the patient and want to hear his or her concerns. If you are a
consultant in a hospital setting, remember to explain your role or
refresh the patient’s memory of it.
With new patients, try a few conventional icebreakers to
promote rapport, for example:
“Are you from this area?”
“What did you do for a living?”
“Do you have family nearby?”
“Are you active in community programs?”
These conversation-starters can help you learn more about a
person while helping them relax in your presence.
Source: “Working with Your Older Patient: A Clinician’s Handbook,” National
Institute on Aging. (public domain)
Additional resources
“When Generations Collide,” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman
(Collins Business edition, 2005)
International Council on Active Aging
National Institute on Aging
International Association of Gerontology
Leadership Council of Aging Organizations
National Association of Geriatric Care Managers
Gerontological Society of America
Huffington Center on Aging/ Baylor College of Medicine
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