Since seniors typically have more medical issues than people younger than them, it would be reasonable to assume that doctors take their concerns seriously. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Studies have shown that there is ageism in health care. One geriatrician says that he sees patients on a daily basis who felt disrespected and devalued by their previous doctors. Older people’s symptoms are often dismissed as just a part of the aging process. There’s also a perception that older patients are difficult when they might just be frustrated that they aren’t being taken seriously – especially if they’re in pain.
The effect of ageism on medical care
One study found that almost 20% of people in the U.S. in their 50s or older said they’d been discriminated against due to age by a medical provider. This becomes dangerous when it affects the level of care they receive. Over a quarter of people in the study who said they’d suffered discrimination frequently reported that their health had worsened.
Another doctor who specializes in senior health care notes that when older patients bring along an adult child to their appointments, doctors often end up talking to them instead and leaving the patient out of the conversation. She says, “Failure to include the senior patient in their own medical care can lead to serious misunderstandings, which may affect treatment.”
Sometimes, discrimination due to age is more overt than a person feeling like they aren’t being listened to. When hospitals were overwhelmed in recent years with seriously ill patients, some chose to take younger ones over older ones.
Medical training in geriatrics is becoming more important
The number of people over 65 in the U.S. is steadily increasing. There are expected to be some 95 million people in that demographic by 2060. Geriatric medicine is a growing field. However, it’s important for all doctors to get experience in caring for older patients as part of their training, which is what some teaching hospitals are doing.
Anyone who feels like their doctor isn’t taking them or their health concerns seriously should find another one who will – whether they’re a trained geriatrician or not. If you or a loved one has already been harmed by a failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis or another type of medical negligence, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to discuss your legal options for seeking justice and compensation.