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FAQ: Dealing With Health Care Ageism

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 27 Apr 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Health Care Ageism Age Discrimination

Despite attempts to eradicate ageism it does still exist within certain areas of the health care system. Older people who feel they have been discriminated against due to age can complain to the Department of Health.

What Exactly Is Age Discrimination?

Ageism can appear in many aspects of life such as employment and in the provision of certain consumer products such as insurance policies. Ageism is not always easy to detect as in many cases the recipient may not be aware they have been discriminated against. Age discrimination can have a very real detrimental effect on older people and their quality of life. Ageism can also be seen as unfair treatment and laws exist to provide protection against age discrimination.

What Is Health Care Ageism?

There have been many reports in the media concerning older people who feel they are being discriminated against by their health care providers due to age. This can take the form of doctors not giving the same level of care or appropriate treatment due to the patient’s age. It could also come in the form of older patients feeling patronised by their health care providers. Older people can be manipulated into going into nursing facilities when they actually do not wish to. Many older people claim that they have faced negative attitudes from health care staff simply because of their age.

What Are The Effects of Ageism?

Ageism can have definite negative effect on a person’s identity. The act of age discrimination both stereotypes and generalises elderly people as a collective group. A common perception of those who do use age discrimination is that all older people are both unhealthy and incompetent, this is clearly a generalisation. But a person facing continual ageism can slowly have their self confidence eroded, which can lead to a negative outlook on life.

What Are Some Common Examples of Ageism in Health Care?

There has been a large volume of published evidence on ageism in the health sector. An examples is that of elderly people not being screened for cancers due to their age. Preventative measures such as screening can diagnose certain conditions at an early stage and improves the chances of treatments working. Doctors are less likely to use risky treatments on elderly patients than younger patients due to perceptions that the elderly are not strong enough to cope with the treatments.

Is There An Age Discrimination Law?

The Age Discrimination Act 2006 was introduced to give protection against ageism. This act covers ageism within employment, training and education. But the act does not provide cover for those discriminated against due to age by health and social care providers. Elderly people should always report instances of ageism.

How Should I Complain About This Issue?

Anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by their health care provider should make a complaint. The first step would be to talk the issue over with a senior member of staff within the health care organisation. Raising the issue with a senior staff member means that the complaint can be investigated and a resolution can be found. If the complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily then the matter can be reported to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service.

Is There a Formal Complaints Procedure?

Those who do not wish to raise a complaint themselves directly can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). PALS is a branch of the Department of Health, and will advise on raising formal complaints against health care providers including complaints on age discrimination. This department provides advice, information and support for carers, patients and families. PALS should be the first point of call for anyone who is unhappy with either their health care or social care providers.

Is Ageism In Health Care Decreasing?

Although some progress has been made there are still many reports of ageism within the health care sector. Organisations such as Age Concern and Help the Aged do provide much advice, information and support on this troubling issue. At present the government are reviewing ageism within the health care sector and are looking to introduce new laws that will ban this type of discrimination. If this government bill is passed it should help to eradicate age discrimination in the health care sector including the provision of goods, services and facilities.

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