LEADING OFF: 10 TIPS to Make Practices Geriatric Friendly

SEPTEMBER IS HEALTHY AGING MONTH. O.D.s can play a positive role in healthy aging by ensuring their practices are friendly to geriatric patients, many of whom may develop issues with seeing, hearing or mobility.

1 Use high-contrasting colors/large print. Black on white or black on yellow to clearly mark items, such as steps, preventing falls, explains Richard Shuldiner, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Marc Gannon, O.D., adds that both contrasting colors and large print should be employed when providing printed instructions to patients, to be easily read.

2 Install non-slip flooring. “Look at flooring that has the least number of seams in between tiles, for example, to reduce the likelihood of falls,” Dr. Gannon says. “Also, make sure patients have a clear path, in terms of ensuring there aren’t any boxes of frames and such that could be in their way.”

3 Be mindful of lighting. Dr. Shuldiner recommends goose-neck lamps in the reception area, so patients can change the illumination to read.

4 Provide drinks. “I find that the geriatric population has a proclivity for dry mouth, so have water on hand and, perhaps even juice in case someone is diabetic, to ensure patient comfort,” he relays.

5 Be sensitive to hearing issues. “Keep music acoustically dull, as this decreases the interference of noises in the office, which can be difficult for patients who have hearing issues,” Dr. Shuldiner points out.

“Focus on enunciation, and speak a little bit louder as well,” adds Dr. Gannon.

6 Provide firm chairs. Squishy, or soft-cushioned chairs, can be difficult to get out of, notes Dr. Shuldiner.

7 Make bars/handles available. Geriatric patients appreciate the ability to grab on to these items for balance and mobility issues, Dr. Shuldiner explains.

8 Encourage support. “When the appointment call is made, have staff encourage patients to bring a friend or family member to the appointment, as two sets of ears are better than one,” relays Dr. Gannon.

9 Tighten the exam chair footrest. “It’s very difficult for some patients to get in and out of the exam chair unless that foot rest remains in the upward position,” explains Dr. Shuldiner.

10 Remember your patient. When a patient presents with a support person, talk directly to the patient throughout the exam, unless, for some reason, the patient has a cognitive issue. It’s about respect, notes Dr. Gannon. OM

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