Age can make it hard to stick with a regular healthcare routine. Pain or illness can limit access to care and restrict an active lifestyle. The hurdles to quality care loom higher in communities with fewer transportation options, care providers or safe spaces. A responsive care team that gives person-centered care can break through these barriers to equal care and reward elders with longer and happier lives.
Older adults throughout their lives have overcome barriers to reaching their goals. To attain health equity, they should make sure their healthcare providers are in their corner. Doctors and caregivers should level with them, follow their preferences and treat them with the respect they deserve. They have earned the right to maintain their relationships, set their own wellness goals and make decisions for themselves. Person-centered care embraces this choice and autonomy.
Focus Healthcare Team on the Right Goals
Part of the person-centered care equation is finding a care team that meets one’s expectations and needs. That means choosing doctors and other caregivers who address language barriers, communicate clearly and let patients call the shots. Persons over 65 are more likely to require complex care, so this form of holistic or whole-person care allows for care management of multiple health issues with more dignity and purpose.
In this approach, patients feel free to tell the doctor what matters most to them, what fears or concerns they have, what trade-offs they are willing to make and what impaired functions they will not accept. If they don’t comprehend an issue, patients should feel comfortable asking the doctor to explain until they understand their condition and the possible courses of action.
Person-centered care should allow for accessible care options outside the doctor’s office, especially telehealth visits and nursing help by phone to overcome transportation, mobility or geographic barriers, which often keep people from getting proper care.
In under-resourced communities, social services can be a bridge to affordable care. Local agencies, churches and community centers offer nutritional advice and assistance to live an independent lifestyle. Community health workers on a medical care team are a more direct way to get help with a care plan. These navigators and advocates are there to help underserved patients overcome some of the socioeconomic barriers that lead to health inequities.
Care coordinators have time to work with older adults on how to take medicines, use continuous glucose monitors or other medical technology. They arrange rides to physician appointments for members without transportation, schedule meal delivery services for those who need food support or even find financial assistance to help cover prescriptions, groceries or utilities. The health team also may enlist in-home caregivers, weight-control or exercise facilities, companionship services or other available resources.
Plan Now for Peace Throughout Life
Older adults also need to keep an eye on the future. Health equity gives them the peace of mind to be in charge with a plan in place. Appointing a healthcare proxy will ensure one’s wishes are carried out if unable to express them. Older adults also can document their wishes for end-of-life care with an advance directive or a living will.
Everyone deserves to be in the driver’s seat on their healthcare journey, and no one should be left without the resources to ensure a comfortable ride.