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The Bias of Medical Providers Towards Aging

Is my physician biased toward my age?
Is my physician biased toward my age?
Google Images 2010

In many cultures in the world, elderly people are revered and their advice is sought and respected. In our culture, the wisdom, the knowledge and the social skills of the elderly are often overlooked and instead we focus on the mental and physical deficits of our older generation.

Because of this prevailing attitude, older people in our society are generally regarded as less valuable than younger people. The younger person has responsibilities of raising a family, maintaining a career and supporting the economy. The older person generally has no responsibilities and in addition is a drag on the economy since a great part of the tax base must go towards the support of older Americans.

It is inevitable that many medical care providers will unconsciously have this same attitude towards their older patients. As a result, if an older person has a medical complaint and the cause is not readily apparent, a medical practitioner is more likely to accept the condition as a consequence of old age. This attitude causes practitioners to focus treatment on making the elderly more comfortable in their old age as opposed to finding a cure. In younger people, if the medical complaint is interfering with normal daily function, typically a more concerted effort will be made to identify and correct the problem.

A 90-year-old man meets with his doctor and complains about pain in his right knee. The doctor tells him,

“Well Henry, what do you expect? You’re 90 years old.”

Henry replies,

“But doctor my left knee is the same age as my right knee, there’s no pain and it feels just fine!”

Many in the health-care profession consider old age to be a disease itself. Any medical problems are inappropriately attributed to old age as if it were a medical condition. And since there is no cure for old age, appropriate tests and treatment are never performed. Thus, medical problems that may not be related to age and may just as frequently occur in younger people are often not treated. As an example, a recent survey of physicians involved in the health-care of the elderly reported that 35% of the doctors considered hypertension a result of the aging process and that 25% of them felt that treating an 85-year-old for symptoms of hypertension would cause more harm than the benefits it would produce.

Geriatric-oriented practitioners require caregivers to closely monitor health conditions in their loved ones and report any changes before things get worse. These providers also meet with their patients regularly enough to monitor, on their own, their patient’s current health. This broad-based approach results in better health, more functionality and fewer visits to the emergency room because intervention for a worsening condition is achieved at an earlier stage.

For more information on talking with your doctor about his treatment of you and to get a better understanding of how he views his elderly patients, please see our website at Our consultants can put you in touch with a physician that treats you holistically and looks at the whole environment. Heres to good health!

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