Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Way You Talk To Seniors Can Affect Their Health

The Way You Talk To Seniors Can Affect Their Health

Did you know that the way health care professionals talk to older people that can actually affect their health? Some examples are:

· When the doctor talks to adult children about their elderly parent, who is right there, instead of talking directly to the person;

· The clerk who assumes that an older person needs to be addressed slowly or in a loud voice; or

· An older person is addressed by the health care worker using the familiar term “dear”, rather than the person’s name.

As reported in The Virginian Pilot, these innocent insults can have health consequences. A long-term study of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town was published in 2002 by Rebecca Levy, a Professor at Yale University. Levy found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer.

Other studies found that older people exposed to negative portrayals of aging performed worse on memory tests, walked slower and had higher levels of stress. One study, to be published in December, used video tapes of older people with mild to moderate dementia and their care givers. It was observed that when the nurses used phrases like “good girl” or “How are we feeling?” patients were more aggressive and less cooperative or receptive to care.

The health care workers in those videos thought the statements that they were making conveyed that they cared. Instead the patient was interpreting the message as saying that the older person was incompetent.

So…when you are with an older person, talk to them and treat them as an adult.

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