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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Elderly 'take less control of their health'
Hospital patient
The elderly are less likely to question their doctors' decision
Elderly patients are less likely to take control of their own care because they were raised in an age of "paternalism", says researchers.

A study into quality in health care found that the older patient was more likely simply to believe in the doctrine that doctors are always right and be less likely to challenge their decisions.

Despite this trust, a number of those quizzed by the researchers admitted they did not understand the terminology of their condition or the treatment given to alleviate it.

I think there needs to be a change in culture on both sides

Catherine Kennelly, of Age Concern

Examples of patients' claiming age discrimination were also found by the report's researchers from the College of Health and the Department of Primary Care at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London.

Patients said doctors were often reluctant to refer them for certain treatments simply because of their age.

And they called for changes in the NHS to ensure a better dialogue between elderly patients and their doctors.

The researchers looked at 38 patients aged 56 and above who belonged to five different heart support groups across London.

All of the patients had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease and were quizzed about the standards of care they had received and the extent to which they had been consulted.

Cultural changes

Author Catherine Kennelly, now at Age Concern, said social conditioning of elderly patients was seen as one of the major problems.

"Some of the people said they came from an age of treating health professionals with respect and that they would rather defer to them.

I think there needs to be a change in culture on both sides. There needs to be better communication between the two groups."

The report continues: "Because older patients tend to defer to the doctor, does not mean that they are happy with their treatment."

Ms Kennelly said the researchers had also picked up an 'undercurrent' of doctors failing to involve patients fully in their care and some cases where patients claimed they had been discriminated against simply because of their age.

See also:

31 Jul 01 | Health
Elderly 'wait longer in casualty'
31 Jan 01 | Health
Elderly face huge bed waits
27 Mar 01 | Health
120m to end NHS 'ageism'
16 Apr 00 | Health
Age discrimination 'rife' in NHS
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
Elderly to be prioritised in reforms
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