Service Delivery for Older Adults

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  • 0:59 Changing Population
  • 2:47 Barriers to Service
  • 4:23 Cultural Competency
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

This lesson discusses how a changing population affects the delivery of adequate service to older consumers. We'll also examine what providers can do to overcome barriers and improve access to quality care.

The Need for Services

Mateo can't believe that ten years have passed since he has moved to the United States from Colombia. His daughter, Sofia, is now 35 years old and has become a counselor. Time has really flown.

At 62, Mateo's just been diagnosed as diabetic. This diagnosis has hit him hard, and lately he has been feeling more down than usual.

The new diagnosis also means that Mateo will be accessing more medical and support services than he has in the past, such as visits to the physician's office and hospital, mental health services, and the need for education about his condition. Those services will help Mateo's quality of life as he ages, if they are accessible, available, and affordable.

This lesson explores challenges providers may face in delivering service to older adults in the areas of health and wellness. We'll pinpoint what factors affect whether Mateo and other older adults get their needs met as they age and need more support.

A Changing Population

Over time, older adults seeking services are expected to be more educated, with a higher socioeconomic status. This may lead to new patterns in the use of services compared with the past. This change in patterns affects what the future looks like for older adults seeking support.

When it comes to providing service to older adults, no one knows exactly how new patterns of use will affect service delivery in the coming years. The services for someone in Sofia's generation may be different than those in her father's generation. For instance, Sofia is fascinated with information about health and wellness and pursues many preventative services, such as screenings and nutrition seminars. Her father, on the other hand, has only gone to the doctor when absolutely necessary.

Older consumers of services come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, religions, and sexual identities. They are more likely than previous generations to be immigrants from Latin American and Asian countries. They're more likely to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that providers of health care and support services will need to be prepared to address unique needs and issues that may not be familiar to them.

In addition to this increase in socioeconomic status and diversity, the overall number of older adults will jump in coming years, due the large size of the baby boomer generation. A workforce that can handle this volume will need to be developed. in order to reduce shortages in staff to serve older adults.

For example, Sofia, who works as a counselor, is surprised by how many of her colleagues do not have any training in working with people her father's age. Though many medical professionals provide treatment to older adults, only a small proportion have specific credentials or training in gerontology.

Barriers to Service

Researchers compile information on the services that older adults access, and this helps them plan for the future. However, it can be hard to accurately predict what real needs older adults have. This is because not everyone who has a need for a service is able to find and pay for that service.

Sofia sees this all the time in her field. She knows of many older adults who avoid seeking treatment because they can't pay, don't know how to access the services, or can't get transportation to them.

Another barrier is a sense of stigma. When Sofia notices Mateo is depressed and anxious since his diagnosis, she recommends he pursue a consultation with a counselor. He hesitates because he has negative feelings about being labeled with a particular condition or with asking for help. This stigma makes him hesitate and can prevent older adults from receiving the treatment they really need.

Some communities may have a lack of providers who are a particular ethnicity or speak a particular language. Diversity is increasing in the population, but practitioners like Sofia, who are bilingual, are not always available to speak directly with a patient. This can be particularly difficult when a person is in the minority in their particular geographic area.

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