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Tuscarawas News Detail

Researcher partners with Gerontological Society of America providing solutions to communicating with elderly

Posted May. 9, 2013

Mei-Chen Lin, Ph.D. associate professor and graduate coordinator in the School of Communication Studies served as one of five advisory board members to the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) on a major outreach publication. The board includes researchers, policy advisers and physicians.

More than 20,000 copies of “Communicating with older adults: An evidence-based review of what really works” were shared with physicians, nurses, clinicians and practitioners working at assisted living, nursing home facilities or clinics that care for older patients across the nation.

The publication focuses on practical suggestions to improve communication with older adults based on developmental, communicative and socio-emotional needs of the older adults. Lin contributed information on the impact of culture on interactions between older patients and physicians and socio-emotional needs of the older adults in relation to adherence to treatment regimens.

Each practical solution in the publication is based on research findings and suggests specific communicative behaviors for physicians to consider, such as avoiding speech that might be seen as patronizing to an older person or asking for emotional responses to illnesses and discomforts.

Lin is also supporting GSA and the organization’s partners, LearnSomething, a provider of e-learning solutions for the food, drug and health care industries, and the McNeal Foundation, to develop a series of online training modules called “Communicating Effectively with Older Adults: What Really Works.” 

The specific module that Lin is crafting aims to make pharmacists more aware of cultural factors that influence interactions with pharmacists and older adults. It outlines the types of health information that older adults typically seek from pharmacists, cultural beliefs in health and death that may affect adherence to medication and ways to improve health literacy of older adults.

Using scenarios, the training module will illustrate how older adults typically seek information about health and their preferences for treatment and medication. Each example situation teaches the medical professional particular cultural values or health seeking behaviors and how to respond.

Pharmacists and medical professionals compete with cultural beliefs of older adults who may discontinue medications when the pain is alleviated, misunderstand dosage instructions due to declining cognitive and physical abilities. One such challenge for pharmacists is justifying why and how long a patient should be on a medication, as compared to alternative methods of healing. 

Ideally, the modules will help pharmacists and pharmacy employees impact the health and lives of their patrons, and save money in the long-term by promoting health maintenance strategies. The modules will be shared by the McNeal Foundation with pharmacies nationally.