Some time ago my father had an uncomfortable experience with a health care professional. A physician, without even a sentence of explanation, began administering the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE), a short evaluation that measures cognitive functioning. My father, who knew exactly what was happening, was upset. As people age, assessments are important, but so are explanations. After chatting with other adult children, I’ve come to the conclusion that many health care professionals do not have a working knowledge of the many subtleties surrounding the aging process, thus affecting their ability to communicate comfortably and even courteously with elderly seniors.
So it was with enthusiasm a few weeks ago that I spotted the headline, Partnership for Health in Aging Defines Universal Geriatrics Competencies Necessary for all Healthcare Professionals to Provide Quality Care for Older Adults. A press release describes how representatives from 21 health related organization are working together to examine the education of health care professionals — people who will work in some capacity with aging adults.
The group “identified as its first step the development of a set of required core competencies,” information that needs to be included in the any health care related curriculum. Representing the fields of dentistry, medicine, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistants, psychology, and social work, coalition members took their work seriously. The working group, after a significant amount of collaboration among the represented disciplines, determined that six skill domains, areas that are common to all of the professions, should be incorporated into the training of health care professionals. Within the domains there are 23 skills — competencies that can directly affect the quality of a professional’s interaction with elderly seniors.
The broad skill areas are listed below, however the PDF from the Partnership for Health in Aging, lists specific skills within each category or domain. Interestingly, many of these skills help an individual fine-tune in communication skills, which in turn enables a professional to collaborate more effectively with aging patients or clients. The document is also available at the American Geriatrics Society website.
- Health Promotion and Safety (5 skills)
- Evaluation and Assessment (6 skills)
- Care Planning and Coordination across the Care spectrum, Including End-of-Life (4 skills)
- Interdisciplinary and Team Care (2 skills)
- Caregiver Support (4 skills)
- Health Care Systems and Benefits (3 skills)
The Partnership for Health in Aging is at the beginning of a process that will greatly benefit older adults. As the process continues, it will be interesting to see how the new recommendations affect the education process in the health care areas.This is clearly beginning of a process that will benefit older adults, helping them age more gracefully.