Simple rules for your older patients

The needs of elderly patients can vary from a physical handicap, such as being hard of hearing, to becoming overwhelmed with medical information or even forgetting what the doctor has said about their health.

Physicians and medical staff (including those at the front desk) may hold a special place in seniors’ lives, both physically and emotionally. Here is advice on how to handle the needs of these special patients. Remember that when dealing with older patients it is particularly important to minimize miscommunication and assist them with managing their anxiety.

1. Scheduling: Many older patients are anxious about driving, so we try to schedule their appointments so they can avoid traveling during peak traffic times. These patients also tend to feel overwhelmed when the doctor has ordered tests or procedures or referred them to another physician. To assist them, try to schedule all extra appointments.

2. Reminders: Another way to help elderly patients is to remind them when you confirm their appointment to bring all prescriptions (the actual bottles -- in a plastic bag) to their appointment. This can help avoid drug interactions, especially when a patient has multiple physicians.

3. Check in: Make sure you give your seniors extra time to check in. Even if you are in a hurry, don’t rush them. This only adds to their anxiety.

4. Communication: Speak to them slowly in a well-modulated voice. Patients need to understand every aspect of their care.

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