Heath and Aging

Talking With Your Older Patient: A Clinician's Handbook

Keeping the Door Open

"Effective Communication"

Advising an older man about starting an exercise program...counseling a woman about the proper way to take her osteoporosis medication...discussing end-of-life care options with the family of a long-time older patient who is dying. These are just some examples of the complex and sensitive issues facing clinicians who treat older people. Health care providers who communicate successfully with older patients may gain their trust and cooperation, enabling everyone to work as a team to handle physical and mental health problems that might arise. Effective communication techniques, like those discussed in this handbook, can save time, increase satisfaction for both patient and practitioner, and improve the provider's skill in managing the care of his or her patients.

Ongoing communication is key to working effectively with your older patient. If a patient does not follow recommendations or starts missing appointments, explore whether or not a difficulty in communication has developed. Paying attention to communication increases the odds of greater health for your patient and satisfaction for you both.

For resources on working with older patients, contact:

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Building 31, Room 5C27
31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
1-301-496-1752
www.nia.nih.gov

NIA funds research on the science of aging and provides information and materials for the public and for professionals. It is the primary Federal agency for Alzheimer's disease research and education.

For NIA publications:

National Institute on Aging Information Center
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8097
1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)
1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov/health

NIHSeniorHealth
www.nihseniorhealth.gov

This is a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine that has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to have the text read out loud or to make the type larger.

American Geriatrics Society (AGS)
40 Fulton Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10038
1-212-308-1414
www.americangeriatrics.org

AGS has programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. The AGS website also offers many clinical resources, including:

  • Geriatrics At Your Fingertips, a pocket-sized guide to caring for older patients
  • The Geriatric Review Syllabus, featuring relevant online educational programs

American Medical Association (AMA)
515 North State Street
Chicago, IL 60654
1-800-621-8335 (toll-free)
www.ama-assn.org (search for "aging")

The AMA has several ongoing initiatives to address a variety of aging issues.

Gerontological Society of America (GSA)
1220 L Street, NW, Suite 901
Washington, DC 20005-4001
1-202-842-1275
www.geron.org

GSA is a non-profit, professional organization whose members include researchers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers.

 

Publication Date: October 2008
Page Last Updated: September 27, 2013