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Stigma, Elder Individuals and Healthcare System

Updated on August 1, 2015
He is  a wonderful and amazing man.  Many, as him, have great stories to tell.  It is an honor to have him in my life.
He is a wonderful and amazing man. Many, as him, have great stories to tell. It is an honor to have him in my life. | Source

Ageism in Health Care

Ageism is simply defined as age discrimination or negative stereotype about older people by depriving or denying the same standard of care, respect, and role in society as the rest of the population. Not only stereotyping is associated with older people, but labeling. There is nothing more disturbing, obnoxious and despicable than a social group or individuals with idiotic attitudes toward our older population, who dare to refer, behave or treat an elder person without dignity, respect and understanding. This article defines "older individuals" as individuals ranging from the ages of 65 and above.

Health Care Quality of the Elderly

A thorough understanding and education on the elderly population is imperative for healthcare practitioners to have. These requirements are not at all meant to place aside this population, but to recognize the similarities and differences among age stages taking into account their necessities as patients. There has been a growing number of older people (Baby Boomers) who are living longer and have more complex conditions and illnesses. This has brought a legitimate concern on how to deal with the health issues of the elderly when there are not many healthcare providers prepared for. Besides the importance of healthcare staff to be trained on medical approaches in order to be able to deal effectively with older patients, it is imperative to give detailed attention to issues related to the dignity, respect and autonomy of older patients.

Dignity, Respect and Autonomy - Rights of older patients

Insensitivity could be the right term to explain why the rights of dignity, respect and autonomy are being are undermined. A lot of evidence could be obtained from anecdotes by elder individuals and family members On the other hand, disrespectful anecdotes from clinical staff about their older patients are too frequent.

  • Dignity & Respect

Unfortunately, there are many health care practitioners and clerical staff who do not take into account how important is to preserve and treat older patients with dignity. Dignity can be defined as a way or quality of treating ourselves with respect and pride, as well as having the right to be treated by others with proper respect. Dignity is viewed as moral and ethical human being aspect that is inherent in every individual. No human being can be separated from the notion of their dignity because it is an innate right of worthy. On the other hand, the degree or importance of dignity are defined and constructed by societies, beliefs and ideas, which do not necessarily meet the inherent dignity of a human being.

Knowing how important is to preserve ours and others dignity, is that we can determine if older patients are treated as they should be. Studies and observations have suggested that many of the older patients who are more quiet, ill, disable or look less confident are being treated disrespectfully by staff in all levels in the healthcare system by demonstrating prejudiced attitudes and insensibility. These attitudes and action can be very destructive and detrimental to the wellbeing of the older patients.

Respect could be defined as the means to maintain that sense of dignity in older patients. This aspect should grow even more as a patient becomes disabled and/or ill. One of the most important things the elderly need to maintain their dignity is to be respected by staff actions, words, and behavior. Medical staff must know how to ethically show respect to patients at all times. This is quality of health care.

It is alarming and discouraging to witness or hear stories about the way elderly patients are treated in hospitals and outpatient visits. Who gave the right to clinical and even clerical staff to undermine the dignity of a patient, and in this case, older adults?

  • Autonomy

Clinical staff must acknowledge how important is for every human being maintain a sense of autonomy by being part of choices and having control of his/her health and daily lives. One of the worst feeling an older patient could have is lack of control. It is obvious that many health care professionals do not respect how dignifying is for a person to own their autonomy. Would they be underestimating or undermining the elders and their capacities and intelligence?

It is known that, unfortunately, health care staff is faced at times with frail older patients who cannot make their own decisions, but that does not mean that they are not expected to offer a high quality of service and care. When the older patients are not able to make decisions by themselves, it is an obligation and responsibility of a health care takers to inform, educate, assess and assist the patients as much as possible. It is also important for the staff to have the appropriate training on how to find the degree of capability of the patient to make some choices.

Health care providers must focus at all times on the preservation of the older patients' dignity and autonomy by respecting them.

To all health care physicians, medical and clerical staff, make sure to use your education, training and knowledge when caring for an older patient. Stereotyping and ageism cannot be allowed and ignored. Make sure to effectively communicate and listen to older patients; be sensitive to their needs and feelings; Do not violate their rights.

I hope the quality of health care for the elderly is taken more seriously and closely supervised because it is a disgrace to know that more and more people with less and less education and training regarding this beautiful, vulnerable and bright individuals, are the ones taking care of them. Or not?

Note: It is imperative to point out and recognize the work and determination of those individuals in the health care field who genuinely care and respect our elderly population. We should always remember to thank those for their job and professionalism.

© 2012 AnnaCia


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    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Your writing is really coming along. I love that you are writing on so many varied topics.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Thank you sandra. There are so many subjects I would like to cover. I will keep doing my best. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      We all become old and frail, so we need to care and respect old peoples.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      That is right Vinaya. Thanks for stopping by,

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      You've addressed an important topic and one that will affect all of us if we live long enough to be elderly patients.

      Thanks for sharing this information.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Thank you for the comment, Happyboomer.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Excellent article and I love the picture. You make some great points about agism. One thing though-- not all elderly people are in care or frail. My next door neighbor lived alone and independently and was in good health until she decided at the age of 89 that taking care of her house was too much for her and moved into an Independent Living situation where she had her own little apartment. That's when she took advantage of a young high school kid who volunteered at the facility to teach the old folks how to use the computer. She got herself an email address and was able to keep up with her old friends and far flung family that way-- Hers is the kind of elder story that people rarely hear about but that is more common than most people think.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      roble2, that is a very valuable point. I also think that not all older people are frail. I know many who are very independent. That is the problem with ageism too, many think that when you reach certain age, you are not able to make decisions or you do not have to be explained anything regarding your health. Thank you so much for your comment.

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

      In the Philippines the old are traditionally taken care of by their family. The idea of placing one's parents in health care facilities for the aged ran counter to Asian culture and attitude toward one's elders. The clinical staff of these facilities may provide dignity and respect but what is more important and missing is a family's love. It is a sad commentary to the erosion and decline of the family as a social unit in so called first world countries.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      SilentReed, You are so right. Many older people are forgotten by family members. With my article I want to point out the simple visits to a doctor or a stay at a hospital. Thank you for the message which is very important.

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

      Mea culpa, comes with aging:) It is a good read.

    • grinnin1 profile image

      grinnin1 5 years ago from st louis,mo

      You hit the nail on the head. This topic is not discussed enough in or out of healthcare, but anyone who has witnessed an older person(who may have fought in a war,been a professional,a father, etc) being treated like a 4 year old, knows that it needs to be dealt with across the board. I think older people need advocates appointed at the hospital or nursing home if they have no family. Thanks for discussing it in your hub!

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      SilentReed, thanks for visiting my hub.

      Grinnin1; I agree with your comment a 100%. This situation and many others regarding our older people needs more attention. Thank you for stoping by.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      I agree with everything you say here. It doesn't just apply to the care system, but to society as a whole. Unfortunately the UK has lost the ""respect your elders" attitude. In Asia, I see elderly people helped, supported and highly respected ... how it should be!!

      Socially SHARED, up, interesting and useful.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Well written and useful Hub, thank you for sharing.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      That is absolutely correct in Asia from some comments here. How sad in some ways if when we bring over our parents to live with us abroad. They feel homesick and seem to become weak while they are active back home. They are trapped lonely in an empty house or apartment and no one can be chatting with them when they needed to be with friends and be around others. They can't be out in the neighbourhood when we don't really know too much of our neighbours unlike the neighbours back home where they happily hang out.

      It is sickening how life is different and fast in a foreign land, that even grown children have the courage to put their parents in other people's care, and a home away from their family's home because they don't have enough time to take care of them. In the Philippines, our elders are most happy taking passionate care of the grandchildren and lovingly look after them. We take care of our parents as always it is a way of repaying them for their whole lives taking care of us until we are ready to be on our own. I regret at times that I am here abroad and my parents are left in the Philippines.

      Voted up for your hub. Will share. Cheers!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Great hub. My mother will be 90 next month. She takes care of her home and a small pretty garden. She is starting to become frail. My sister is near by to take care of her.

      One of our biggest problems with our mother is the clinic she goes to for her health often wants her to have test and things done that are just crazy and that she doesn't need. Like bone density test, She has osteoporosis they know that why another test.

      It's sad how some families do not care for their older family members.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Brett, healthcare for the elderly and the way many are treated is an issue not pointed out as an important one. Thanks for you comment.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      jainismus, thank you fro reading my. hub.

      coffeegginmyrice: Thanks for the comment. There are so many cases of elderly people waiting for their families to visit, and at the end of the day, they go to bed without seeing anybody. What a shame.

      Moonlake: I love your comment so strong and valuable.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 5 years ago from Lagos

      Great hub ?with so many A vital lesson. Ageing is inherent human imperfection destined for all human n? Matter ?what, therefore having this in mind should remind us to treat others as we would want them to treat us! Thank you

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      It is so true. If we are lucky, or unlucky?, we will get to that stage of life. Thanks for the comment ubanichijoke

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have written on this a few times, not quite as calmly since my mother was the topic and her being abused and neglected, (eventually murdered). Very good write, and always pleased to see others pointing out what our elderly deserve. Great write.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Jackie. I am so sorry about your mother. We need to be advocates and make sure our older people are having the care they deserve. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      Great hub,Anna!

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 4 years ago

      Thank you, Integrity

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