Anti- Ageism Strategies for Older Healthcare Professionals & Patients

You are aware of the COVID-19, but are you aware of Ageism? COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, but Ageism is all about discriminating against older workers in the workforce. While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has outlawed age discrimination against people aged 40 or older, the practice is still relevant with many healthcare organizations here in the U.S. 

A 2020 study conducted by WHO, while COVID-19 just began testing the waters to scale its virality, informs of how “Ageism in the form of negative age stereotypes and self-perceptions led to excess annual costs of US$63 billion for the eight most expensive health conditions. This amounts to US$1 in every US$7 spent on these conditions for all Americans over the age of 60 for one year.” 

What is in front of us now is to consider if small to medium to large healthcare enterprises can have a hard look at this survey and be willing to audit their internal practices if discriminatory. At SyraHealth, we consider it a pressing issue that requires immediate review and implementation of practices to eliminate such workforce ageism against older healthcare professionals for a start.

Ageism against Older Healthcare Professionals at Work

Discrimination at the workplace is an old practice in most legacy enterprises and startups led by a band of the fierce young. As a result, professionals over 40+ face terrible resistance at work, compelling them to leave an opportunity and seek a new one, which unfortunately never or hardly materializes. As a result, an organization is visibly lagging behind on its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy.

It is a fact that young or old patients are more comfortable talking to older doctors and nurses who can relate to the pathology from decades of experience and exposure to newer developments. Better relatability triggers better diagnostic advice triggers better identification of ailment and eventually better treatment and recovery. But when these experienced professionals face workplace ageism from employers, fellow staff members, and even patients, it is misery decoded. 

  1. Physical Strength: Aged healthcare professionals are considered physically weak to facilitate patient mobility (changing beds, wheel-chair, etc.) and treatment administration.
  2. Technology: Aged healthcare professionals are considered intellectually underprepared to keep up with the changing technologies and medications and in need of training.
  3. Pay: Aged healthcare professionals are expensive because of their vast experience, so organizations prefer hiring young healthcare professionals with lesser experience and lesser pay.

How to Reduce Ageism against Healthcare Professionals 

To combat Ageism in healthcare organizations, Syra health recommends implementing DEI. We also suggest an understanding of the directives of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on how to check Ageism at the workplace-

  • Assess your organization’s culture, practices, or policies to review your approach to older workers. As per the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and AARP, here’s an assessment tool to review Ageism at the workplace.  
  • Check your recruitment practices & train your resource management to avoid ageist practices such as having a panel of only-young-recruiters to interview highly experienced and aged professionals, among many other peculiar age-identifying practices.
  • Focus on developing more anti-age-bias training programs and modules along with a culture that appreciates diversity in age, experience, and efforts for a more inclusive workplace.
  • Along with rejecting stereotypes involving race, disability, national origin, religion, or sex, foster a multi-generational culture.

Ageism against Older Patients across the United States

Ageism determines the well-being of healthcare professionals in the healthcare sector and sticks out as a stereotype and barrier to health equality within the patient population.

At SyraHealth, we have observed that older adults comprise 13% of the total U.S. population and account for over 40% of U.S. hospitalizations. We understand how Ageism is detrimental to offering value-based care for older patients. With an ageist mindset, healthcare providers connect signs and symptoms of illness to natural aging instead of studying the underlying and often more serious and treatable problems. 

For example, loss of hearing is considered one of the most generalized indicators of aging; Healthcare providers, in 99% of cases, dismiss the loss of hearing as a normal symptom of aging. But at SyraHealth, we ask, could it also be to an impacted inner organ or a tumor that deserves a serious investigation?

How to Reduce Ageism against Older Patients 

According to the Alliance for Aging Research, “unless ageist attitudes are recognized and rooted out of our healthcare system, the next generation of Americans under Medicare, the largest generation in U.S. history, will likely suffer inadequate care.”

We believe in the recommendations released by the center to reduce Ageism against older patients.

  • Impart standard anti-ageism training and development to healthcare professionals in the field of geriatrics
  • Include more older Americans in clinical trials for developing better medical outcome suited to the age-group
  • Focus on appropriate utilization of screening and preventive measures for older Americans
  • Treat older patients with dignity and compassion and never refuse a hearing based on biased ageist assumptions.

Whether it is a young patient or old, America has granted constitutional rights to all human beings to avail quality healthcare. To abolish Ageism against older healthcare professionals and Ageism against the older patient population, Healthcare organizations must first acknowledge that Ageism exists and then seek an external review committee to help establish a more equitable and inclusive healthcare practice.

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