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Gauging The Health Literacy of Patients

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At Benchmark Senior Living, we know the demands on your time can be intense. Health care professionals are called upon to do more for patients than ever before and with fewer resources. It doesn’t always allow you the time you’d like to have to get to know each patient.

But connecting with patients in meaningful ways is important when it comes to compliance. In general, people tend to be more receptive to information that is presented to them if they have a relationship with the advisor. It’s just human nature.

What is also human nature is for a patient to avoid asking questions so they don’t appear to be unintelligent. Or when they are concerned that their questions might come across as challenging to an authority figure.

What can you do to ensure your older patients understand what is expected of them? To make sure they are comfortable following discharge instructions or a medication schedule, for example?

Based on our twenty year history of working with seniors, here are a few suggestions we think you might find helpful.

Assessing an Older Patient’s Ability to Understand and Comply

While it might seem like it isn’t all that important for a patient you won’t see again or will only see occasionally, building a relationship is vital. It helps improve a patient’s health literacy and compliance.

Putting the patient at ease will likely make them more receptive to your instructions and requests. Here are a few tips:

  • Begin by asking questions to help connect with the older patient on a personal level. It might be to ask if they have children or grandchildren. Or you could ask about their hobbies and interests. The senior may even welcome an opportunity to chat about the career they retired from.
  • Then you can transition in to talking about their current situation. Review written instructions or directions in a respectful manner making sure not to appear condescending. Seniors are often forced to deal with prejudices and stereotypes about aging that put them on the defensive. So be mindful of your tone when you are communicating.
  • You can say things like, “I know some of this health care language can be intimidating so please stop me if you have questions.” Giving the older adult permission to interrupt you will provide them with an opportunity to ask each question when it is still fresh in their mind.

Finally, ask open-ended questions to be certain the patient understands the information you’ve reviewed together. Some common examples might be:

  • So once you are back home, tell me which of your doctors you are going to schedule a follow-up appointment with?”
  • “How will you set up and manage your medication schedule when you are on your own?”

Giving the senior patient an opportunity to repeat back what they think they heard you say can help identify any confusion or gaps in understanding.

One Benchmark Senior Living service your patients might find helpful is our Home Visit program. One of our experienced team members can visit the patient at home to discuss their care needs, evaluate safety issues around the home, and connect them with community resources that might be helpful.

Your patient just needs to call the community nearest them to learn more about this complimentary service!

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Jayne Sallerson is a warm, enthusiastic and compassionate executive with a heart for working with seniors. Jayne has been in senior care for more than 20 years and she says, “I still love what I do.” At Benchmark Senior Living, Jayne now serves as Executive Vice President. A native of New England, Jayne loves to travel, meet new people, and hang out with her favorite pug, Henry.
Jayne started this blog as a way to share the many questions she and her team get every day with other people looking for answers.