Healthy Aging

Wise Elders Communication Activation Research and Education

The Older Patient-Health Care provider (physician, nurse, care manager, etc.) interaction is complex and often difficult to competently enact. As a population, older adults present with multiple health issues, in an ambulatory healthcare context that does not often adjust for age or comorbidities but rather schedules all patients equally for short, medium or long visits. This, compounded by the fact that healthcare professionals often have a limited understanding of healthy aging because they routinely deal with very sick patient makes for multiple communication challenges in the encounter. Research has documented the numerous communication difficulties and has pointed to the harm (misdiagnosis, non-adherence, and misunderstanding of the diagnosis) that can occur as a result of miscommunication within this health care encounter. Our research focuses upon initial point of care contact between older adults, companions, and health care providers (physicians and nurses) and the assumptions, expectations and desires they have in terms of communication.  We will study the older patient, companion, healthcare provider interaction using the concept multiple perspectives on “Always Events,” elements of face-to-face interaction that should occur in each and every encounter. Our research question is, to what extent does agreement among parties to the older patient provider encounter predict satisfying and positive outcomes of care. Conversely, does the lack of agreement about always events predict poor outcomes and satisfaction with care?  Our ultimate goal is to develop communication interventions to improve communicative competence  on both sides of the stethoscope and to achieve better dialog and understanding of what matters most to older adults in terms of their healthcare.