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What you need to know to help elderly patients make health decisions

2 Mins read

A doctor checking the blood pressure of a patient Description automatically generated with low confidence

Assisting elderly patients with healthcare decision making is a complex, difficult process. The wishes of the elderly person must be considered with the input of their loved ones and a host of other, significant factors like quality of life, the limits of technology, and the possible expenditure required to maintain a certain level of health.

The assistance of an experienced, competent, and compassionate healthcare professional is essential for helping an elderly person to explore all of the different medical options and potential healthcare paths they could take. While experience is one of the best teachers, there are a number of steps you can take now to improve your ability to communicate with elderly patients and assist them with their decision-making process.

Help the elderly person to be in control

If an older person is in control of the decision-making process, they will feel more positive and empowered, and it will help to make the entire process much easier. If an elderly person feels like their family members and medical practitioners are speaking over their head and making decisions about their health without their input or consent, they will likely feel that they have lost their dignity, power, and place in the world. By helping to make them feel included and empowered, the process of making important decisions will be better for everyone involved.

One of the best ways to include the patient in decisions is to take the time to explain exactly what the situation is and what their options are. It is important that the patient has time to consider the situation, reflect on their options, and discuss the possibilities with their loved ones and friends.

As a medical practitioner, you will likely first want to speak with the patient’s family members and ensure that they understand the situation and have all of the facts they need. The family members should also be informed of all of the different treatment options available for the patient. However, it is important that the patient is not spoken over or disregarded during the decision-making process and instead should be included so that they have the opportunity to ask questions, discuss, and agree with the final decisions.

Gain the experience and training you need

The holistic AGPCNP program at Wilkes University provides training in how to handle just such conversations with patients and how to explore various healthcare plans. It trains students in cutting-edge medical treatments, while also teaching them how to best care for and communicate with the patients under their care.

Regardless of your role, helping older patients make difficult decisions for their healthcare is going to be difficult and challenging. These decisions are incredibly complex and hard for the patient, and their loved ones to make. Without the appropriate training and experience in the field, it can be challenging to speak with the patient, explore all of the available options, and help guide them towards the best treatment plan.

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About author
Spent 2001-2004 buying and selling robots in Bethesda, MD. Spent several months working with tinker toys in the UK. Won several awards for selling teddy bears on Wall Street. In 2009 I was developing strategies for sausage in Prescott, AZ. Once had a dream of supervising the production of corncob pipes for no pay. At the moment I'm creating marketing channels for magma for the government. Communicator. Beer lover. Social media advocate. Travel guru. Pop culture evangelist. Entrepreneur.
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