Age Discrimination and Preventative Care

We’ve all heard about discrimination in the health care system, especially as it relates to women.  If a woman walks into her doctor’s office complaining of fatigue, brain fog, depression, low sex drive and general lack of motivation, often her symptoms are considered non-specific and shrugged off.  Her doctor might even joke that it’s no wonder she’s feeling this way – she’s busy multitasking all the time!  Even as this gap in health care gains attention, another wider gap exists for the 46.2 million adults over 65 in the United States who experience age discrimination.

Treatment vs. Mindset

Older adults routinely receive less aggressive treatment compared with younger adults, regardless of the evasiveness of procedure.  Studies show that older diabetic patients often aren’t asked to monitor their blood sugar or get routine blood tests and physical exams like their younger counterparts.  These aren’t invasive treatments, they’re simply the standard of care associated with that specific diagnosis.

Treatment bias is a direct result of practitioners viewing aging as a process of natural decline.  Adhering to this viewpoint makes it easy to write patient complaints off as symptoms of aging, as described in this article.  It’s as if aging is a diagnosis unto itself.  This mindset leaves little room for the interpretation of medical imbalance, which negatively affects patient quality of life.  Are we less concerned with quality of life for the aged?  Do older adults fall outside the realm of preventative care?

Nutrition, Prevention and Aging

As a functional nutritionist, I would love to see more preventative care aimed at the older population.  Nutritional status can play a big part in health and extending quality of life for older adults.  Diet quality, access to food, mobility, the ability to prepare meals or feed oneself independently, naturally declining mechanisms of hunger and thirst and the management of multiple medications are just a few of the factors that influence the health of aged individuals.  Each of these variables offer an avenue for intervention; an opportunity to positively impact someone’s life.  The trouble is, these things are often overlooked in traditional healthcare settings.

I have personally met with older clients who have multiple drug-induced nutrient deficiencies, overt symptoms of those deficiencies and lab work indicating that they’re deficient, yet none of this is discussed during their appointments.  While nutritional status is something that falls between the cracks in our healthcare system, the implications for elderly patients can be dramatic.


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