Ageism in healthcare

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Concannon, Louise
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University College Cork
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Journal Article 1 - Background: Ageism was first introduced in the literature in the 1960s, gaining increasing recognition in the decades since. Ageism can impact a range of domains, including physical, emotional and mental well-being. Ageism in healthcare can influence older adults’ access to screening opportunities, information sharing and treatment availability. With an increasing aging population, requiring access to a wide range of healthcare services, it is crucial to identify and understand healthcare professionals’ attitudes towards older people, to ensure access to fair and impartial healthcare provision. Methods: An electronic search of 3 databases was performed (Medline, CINAHL Plus and PsycINFO) in September 2018 for studies published between 2012-2018. The quality and overall findings of the studies were assessed. Results: Twelve studies were included in the review. Attitudes ranged between neutral and positive, in line with previous reviews of the literature. More positive attitudes were evident in countries consistent with Westernised cultural value systems. No demographic variables were strongly related to attitudes with the exception of level of education which was demonstrated to be strongly associated to attitudes. Studies primarily focused on nursing staff and physicians with lower attitudes demonstrated in long-term care facilities. Conclusions: This review highlights the need for methodologically robust research aimed at capturing a range of health-professional’s attitudes. Efforts to increase education and training may act as a buffer in developing ageist stereotypes. Further research is required to better understand cultural influences with regard to ageism and attitudes.
Journal Article 2 - Background: Ageism in healthcare can result in deleterious consequences for older people. Ageist attitudes can affect healthcare quality through reduced access to information, screening and treatment options. As the population ages, it is imperative to understand Irish healthcare professionals’ attitudes to ensure older people are provided with equitable, unbiased healthcare. Further, it is important to explore older peoples’ perspectives of healthcare interactions, to examine whether ageism is part of the narrative, and its’ potential impact on older people seeking care. Methods: A mixed-methods research design was employed. Questionnaires sent out to 150 general practitioners with a response rate of 38%. Qualitative interviews were conducted with older adults’ attending a community mental health service to explore their healthcare experiences to date. Results: No significant differences were observed on attitudes across a wide range of demographic variables. More positive attitudes were evident in individuals’ currently living with an older person. The personality traits agreeableness and extraversion were correlated with more positive attitudes. Themes suggested that older people’s healthcare perceptions are influenced by previous historical perspectives, perceived patient vulnerability and patient-centred relationships. Conclusions: The current findings corroborate previous literature with regard to the role of specific personality correlates and increased contact with more positive attitudes towards older adults. Older people are reporting negative healthcare interactions, however, tend not to interpret these experiences as ageist. Further research is required to understand the interplay between older adults’ reported experiences and perceived reliance on services.
Ageism , Attitudes , Older adults , Health professionals
Concannon, L. 2019. Ageism in healthcare. DClinPsych Thesis, University College Cork.
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