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A lot of ageist behaviors may not be intentional and will take conscious efforts to identify and change. To get you started, here are some ways to stop ageism from occurring in the health and social care industries:
Understand a person’s functional ability. Not every older person has a hearing problem, so don’t raise your voice unless it’s appropriate. Don’t oversimplify language, if it’s not necessary. Try not to repeat yourself unless there is a clear comprehension issue. There are many senior citizens, even those with dementia and other conditions, who are still mentally sharp, so respect their abilities.
Acknowledge the family caregiver, but talk to the senior. It is easy for a care provider to talk to a family caregiver when present and ignore the senior, even referring to them in the third person as if they are not in the room. Do your best to keep everyone involved in conversations.
Know your patient/resident. There are tools in the marketplace like the Living History Program, which can help you better understand a person’s life story. The more you know, the less likely you will be to stereotype.
Examine your culture. Institutionalized ageism took decades to evolve so rolling it back will take time. Start by revamping your training and orientation to address ageism both in the workforce and toward residents and patients.