How Seniors Can Fight Doctors Ageism


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Experts say older people should bring someone else with them to their medical appointments if possible. Tom Werner / Getty Images
  • Experts say many older people aren’t taken seriously when reporting symptoms and other conditions to healthcare professionals.
  • They say ageism in health is on the rise and needs to be addressed.
  • They urge older people to prepare for their medical appointments and to bring another person when possible to help defend their rights.

It took 4 months, 3 biopsies, and a lot of coaxing for Leah Wooten from Louisiana to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for her husband, Tom.

Wooten, an experienced nurse, blames their age. While they were both only in their 60s at the time, Wooten said she believed the medical teams they had encountered were taking the reported symptoms less seriously.

“It always seems like the older you get, the less they listen to you,” Wooten told Healthline.

Could a faster diagnosis have helped her husband live longer than a year and a half after this diagnosis?

Wooten will never know. But she is sure of one thing: ageism played a role during those 4 months, something she considers “torture”.

“We had been together for so long, I just knew something was wrong,” she said.

Now a widow, Wooten is angry with this treatment and wants other old people to make sure she stands up and pushes like she has.

She is not alone. As society lives longer – and more and more older people face medical problems – there are more and more reports of what people see as ageism.

Mary Cissel says she has also felt the impact of medical ageism.

Four years ago, Cissel was feeling lethargic and gained weight that she couldn’t lose. She had been exercising for a long time and knew her body, but doctors told her that her concerns about a medical reason were unfounded.

“They said, ‘you’re getting older, just exercise more,’” she recalls. “I was already eating 600 calories less per day and running more. I know how to eat. I know how to exercise. I know how to lose weight. ”

Something, she told them, was wrong.

Cissel searched until she found a doctor who would listen to her. Thyroid surgery corrected her condition.

But now she is wondering: what if she hadn’t pushed? And how could these other medical experts push his worries aside so easily?

“[They] allowed me to undergo torture, ”Cissel told Healthline. “If I were a younger woman, [they] did you do it? “

So what should an elderly person do?

For starters, know that your concerns are real, Wooten said, because people will cast doubt on you.

In fact, a World Health Organization Report published this year said ageism is now more prevalent than ever.

In it, the researchers said that 1 in 2 people around the world have negative ageist attitudes.

Colm Diver, MS, a registered dietitian at Plato Physio, works with older people (and others) to help them overcome these issues.

“Negative attitudes towards older people can reduce their functional and mental health as well as their recovery from illness,” Diver told Healthline.

Moreover, he added, it could lead to an increased risk of death. A Systematic review 2019, he noted,
found that 95 percent of the 422 studies studied predicted a decrease in health problems due to ageism.

Experts have a number of suggestions for seniors when they visit healthcare professionals. Here are a few.

  • Be ready for your dates. It’s a good idea, experts say, to make a list of what your healthcare professional should hear. Take it out and check every thing and don’t let any of them get pushed aside.

Lists keep a person focused and help anyone, regardless of age, not get distracted from the date’s goals.

If a medical expert dismisses or downplays any of your listed concerns, be strong and determined.

Brenda Avadian, MA, who speaks internationally on caregiver rights and advice and operates The Caregivers Voice, said the way to respond if your concerns are put aside is simple.

“I would pause and look the doctor in the eye and ask him to explain it so I can take an active role in my health care,” Avadian told Healthline. “I’m serious about this.”

  • * Bring an avocado: At any age, having another set of ears around the room is helpful when something medical – especially something worrying – is brought up.

For seniors, it is even more vital.

“A healthcare advocate can save your life, your money, your time and your health,” Jean Llamas, president and owner of Care Navigators Inc., told Healthline.

Lamas, who has decades of nursing experience and works primarily with people with dementia, said she had seen a medical team countless times suggest someone be ordered “do not resuscitate.” Only to see that person – thanks to a lawyer – live for years. longer.

As soon as you’re 50 or 60 and have a few medical diagnoses, Llamas said, you should meet with a medical lawyer.

You can find them, she said, under headings such as “Geriatric Care Manager”, “Aging Life Care Professional” and “Health Care Advocate.”

“Find (an advocacy team) who is hiring nurses,” she said. “They know medicine, can come in, read a file and understand it. “

Maggie Fears, PhD, is a medical researcher who understands the field as a whole.

She went with her mother for a medical appointment and ended up fighting for what her mother needed.

Weeks later, when she moved her mother to a new home, she asked for the records of her mother’s medical team, only to find a note there that read:

“The patient is not compliant. The girl is argumentative.

“If I hadn’t read this,” Fears told Healthline, “judgment would have been passed on us. “

This, she says, has caused her to worry about dates she can’t make with her mother.

“It must be so difficult (at an older age),” she said. “I’m a woman in my forties with a doctorate in biomedical science, and they denigrated me. What if mom had been alone at these dates? Who knows what would have been the result.

At the end of the day, she said, the best advice may be to trust your instincts and not assume that every doctor is always right.

“There are caregivers who have such self-esteem, no one else has a valid opinion,” she said. “Better to avoid them.”

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