Nearly four in 10 older adults say that managing their health care needs is difficult for them or their families, that medical appointments or tests get delayed or don’t get done, or that all of the requirements of their health care are too much to handle, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
The findings are published in the October issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
“Medical providers must be aware that when they ask older adults to take a new medication or suggest they see another doctor that this is happening in a broader context of treatment,” says study author Dr. Jennifer L. Wolff, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School. “High quality care is not only about a single disease or visit, but rather the overall treatment plan across multiple providers. If we look at each visit in a vacuum, the health of these older adults could really suffer.”
While Dr. Wolff and her Hopkins co-author Dr. Cynthia M. Boyd, found a high level of what they call “treatment burden,” they also found that the vast majority of older adults surveyed prefer to play an active role in making decisions about their health care either in conjunction with their doctors (85 percent), or their family or close friends (96 percent). The strong degree of interest in participating in decisions was a surprising finding given that previous surveys using smaller samples or comparisons by age group have shown that those over 65 prefer to take a more passive role in health care decision-making. Two-thirds of older adults said they were managing their own health care independently. Those who delegate the management of health care activities to others tend to be older and sicker than those who manage their own care, the researchers found.