As I listened last week to a web event on confronting ageism in healthcare, I found myself nodding in agreement with the participants, who were all themselves nodding at the comments of their collaborators.
The conversation, presented by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News and The John A. Hartford Foundation, was led by KHN’s Navigating Aging columnist Judith Graham and included panelists well known to the long-term care industry such as physicians Mike Wasserman and Elderhood author Louise Aronson, among others.
The discussion touched on many aspects of ageism in various healthcare environments and led me to consider where ageism might be present in long-term care. Unlike hospitals or clinics, LTC is all about elders, so theoretically we should be doing better than other healthcare settings.
In her recent column, ‘They Treat Me Like I’m Old and Stupid’: Seniors Decry Health Providers’ Age Bias, Graham defines ageism as “stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination because of their age” and describes multiple examples of ageism including the lack of recognition of elders’ needs and treating them as less valuable than younger people.
Clearly, ageism was present early in the pandemic when resources were directed almost exclusively towards hospitals while nursing homes were being decimated by COVID-19. Low reimbursement rates and insufficient funding for staff reflect a lack of consideration of the needs of elders in nursing homes.