Communicating with Older Adults

Current Issue

communicating2Communicating with Older Adults: Recognizing Hidden Traps in Health Care Decision Making

This special publication provides an introduction to common heuristics (mental shortcuts) and biases (predictable systematic errors in reasoning) that could affect health care decisions made by older adults, health care providers, and caregivers. Select heuristics and biases are illustrated in hypothetical cases involving the use of nonprescription analgesics and the need for recommended immunizations; each case includes communication tips for overcoming the heuristic or bias. The objective is to encourage more productive decision-making conversations with older adults.

This publication is intended for physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, and other health care practitioners who seek to have the best possible interactions with older patients. Understanding the various heuristics and biases that affect our thinking can lead to more informed and productive decisions.

We wish to acknowledge the insights and contributions of four GSA representatives from different member sections who shaped this publication, which was developed by GSA and supported by McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

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Previous Issues

communicating1Communicating with Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works

As the title suggests, this special publication compiles evidence-based recommendations for improving face-to-face communication with older patients. The recommendations were contributed by experts in the fields of gerontology and communications. Each recommendation is accompanied by a brief explanation of the rationale, tips for implementing the recommendation in busy health care settings, and selected references for further reading. The objective is to encourage behaviors that consider the unique abilities and challenges of older adult patients and produce positive, effective interactions among everyone involved.  

This publication is intended for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, biologists, psychologists, social workers, caregivers, economists, health policy experts—in fact, anyone who seeks to have the best possible interactions with older patients. We believe that this collection of recommendations will assist you in identifying and responding to opportunities to improve the health of older adults. This publication was developed by GSA and supported by McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

Download the issue from GSA's Online Store! It's free for everyone.