Talking With Your Older Patient: A Clinician's Handbook
Considering Health Care Perceptions
Understanding Older Patients
Obtaining the Medical History
Encouraging Wellness
Talking About Sensitive Subjects
Supporting Patients With Chronic Conditions
Breaking Bad News
Working With Diverse Older Patients
Including Families and Caregivers
Talking With Patients About Cognitive Problems
» Keeping the Door Open
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National Institute on Aging > Health > Publications > Talking With Your Older Patient: A Clinician’s Handbook
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Keeping the Door Open

“Effective Communication”
Advising an older man about starting an exercise program . . . counseling a woman about the proper way to take her osteoporosis medication . . . discussing end-of-life care options with the family of a long-time older patient who is dying. These are just some examples of the complex and sensitive issues facing clinicians who treat older people. Health care providers who communicate successfully with older patients may gain their trust and cooperation, enabling everyone to work as a team to handle physical and mental health problems that might arise. Effective communication techniques, like those discussed in this handbook, can save time, increase satisfaction for both patient and practitioner, and improve the provider’s skill in managing the care of his or her patients.

Ongoing communication is key to working effectively with your older patient. If a patient does not follow recommendations or starts missing appointments, explore whether or not a difficulty in communication has developed. Paying attention to communication increases the odds of greater health for your patient and satisfaction for you both.

For resources on working with older patients, contact:

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Building 31, Room 5C27
31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
NIA funds research on the science of aging and provides information and materials for the public and for professionals. It is the primary Federal agency for Alzheimer’s disease research and education.

For NIA publications:

National Institute on Aging Information Center
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8097
800-222-2225 (toll-free)
800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)

This is a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to have the text read out loud or to make the type larger.

American Geriatrics Society (AGS)
The Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 801
New York, NY 10018
AGS has programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. The AGS website also offers many clinical resources, including:

  • Geriatrics at Your Fingertips, a pocket-sized guide to caring for older patients
  • The Geriatric Review Syllabus, featuring relevant online educational programs

American Medical Association (AMA)
515 North State Street
Chicago, IL 60610
The AMA has several ongoing initiatives to address a variety of aging issues.

Gerontological Society of America (GSA)
1030 15th Street, NW, Suite 250
Washington, DC 20005-1503
GSA is a non-profit, professional organization whose members include researchers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers.

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Page last updated Dec 31, 2008