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How Seniors Can Boost Their Healthcare Literacy | Generations Home Care
A nurse helping a patient expand their healthcare literacy

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health. Though it seems evident that people should fully understand their medical treatments, it’s not always that simple. Healthcare literacy is an area where seniors often lag behind. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 71 percent of seniors struggled to use print materials, and 80 percent had difficulty with forms and charts–two crucial skills for understanding medical documents. In many cases, seniors may struggle to find healthcare materials that are approachable and informative. 

Many seniors have gone most of their lives accessing medical information through their providers rather than seeking it out themselves. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of information available on the internet. However, sometimes that massive amount of content can be more hindrance than a help. Sorting through all the search results and determining which are helpful, trustworthy, or even outright dangerous is critical for seniors advocating for their health. 

What is Healthcare Literacy and How Can It Help?

The first step to improving your healthcare literacy is understanding what it is. In short, healthcare literacy is the degree that you as a patient can obtain and understand the information you need to make educated healthcare decisions. For example, one component of healthcare literacy might involve understanding that smoking can lead to lung cancer. If you don’t know the adverse effects of smoking, you can’t take steps to protect your health. 

Of course, decades of massive public campaigning have made the dangers of smoking general knowledge. Now when people choose to smoke, they do so knowing the risks. However, not all healthcare information is so widespread, easily accessible, or simple to understand. Studies show that poor healthcare literacy leads to higher hospitalization rates, poor management of chronic illnesses, and increased mortality. The National Academy for an Aging Society found that $73 billion in healthcare costs resulted from patients misunderstanding healthcare information. 

How Seniors Can Improve Their Healthcare Literacy Online

The internet is a valuable tool, but only when you know how to use it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when researching matters relating to your health:

Check the Sources

Some sources online are more reputable than others. A Facebook post, forum, or personal blog might be written to seem highly credible. However, it’s much harder to double-check their veracity. It can also pay to be wary of information you find on a company’s website trying to sell a product or medicine. Regardless of whether the information is accurate, it may still be trying to convince you to buy something. It’s wise to always double or triple check any healthcare information online. That’s why it’s helpful to use sources that you know are reputable, like government websites.

Don’t Leap to Conclusions

It’s a common joke that any time you access WebMD.com for an innocuous health problem, you’ll inevitably discover you’re dying of some rare and horrible disease. This phenomenon arises in part from the difficulty of diagnosing an issue online. But also because it’s easy to read a long list of minor conditions and fixate on the single dangerous one. It’s smart to keep things in perspective and not get overwhelmed or frightened by the information you find. If you have concerns, bring them to your doctor before starting to panic. 

Work With Your Doctor

The key to healthcare literacy is being able to talk to your doctor on an equal footing about your treatment and accurately follow their instructions. Knowing more about your health and possible treatments means you can ask questions or request further tests which can help steer the course of your treatment. For instance, weight bias is unfortunately common in the medical profession. This means that overweight people are sometimes told that their health issues are related to their body size, allowing severe medical problems to go untreated. Healthcare literacy can give people the power to insist that doctors treat their concerns with validity and explore all possible treatment avenues. If you feel like your needs aren’t being addressed by your doctor, it might be time to seek a second opinion.

Navigating Healthcare Information is Difficult

Many seniors aren’t as comfortable using the internet as their children and grandchildren might be. With medical research advancing quickly in many fields, relying on paper books isn’t always an excellent way to get up-to-date information. At the end of the day, you might need a little help using the internet. A home caregiver can be the advocate you need. 

Caregivers can help you navigate the internet, set medication reminders, and help you keep track of your treatment goals. An in-home caregiver chips in so seniors can stay on top of things, whether it’s research or chores around the house. It takes time to educate yourself, and the necessities of life can fall by the wayside in the meantime. With an in-home caregiver to provide nutritious meals and keep your living space tidy and free of potential safety hazards, you can dedicate all your time to what matters to you. 

About Generations Home Care

Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

Our Specialty Services Include:

  • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
  • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
  • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
  • Veteran’s connection to care program.
  • Live-in services and couples care.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.


About the author - Josh Friesen

Aging With Independence During National Safety Month Post-Covid Health Challenges for Seniors