The Growing Need for Improved Healthcare Access for Older Adults with Disabilities

The Growing Need for Improved Healthcare Access for Older Adults with Disabilities

The number of older adults with disabilities is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades as the baby boomer generation ages. However, the healthcare system is not adequately prepared to meet the needs of this population, as highlighted by the challenges faced by older adults with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these issues, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have launched initiatives aimed at improving access to medical treatments and equipment for people with disabilities and conducting research to better understand their unique health concerns.

Lisa Iezzoni, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a leading researcher on disability, emphasizes the importance of these efforts in making healthcare more equitable for people with disabilities. She has found that many physicians hold biases against individuals with disabilities, leading to a lower quality of care. One study revealed that 82% of physicians believed disabled individuals had a worse quality of life, and only 57% welcomed disabled patients.

It is crucial to note that older adults are disproportionately affected by disabilities, with about one-third of individuals aged 65 and older living with a disability. Yet, healthcare providers often lack knowledge of their responsibilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates equal access and accommodation for disabled individuals. As a result, medical practices may lack necessary equipment, such as height-adjustable tables or scales for patients in wheelchairs, and diagnostic imaging equipment may not be accessible to those with mobility limitations.

Discrimination against older adults with disabilities is evident during times of crisis, as seen during the pandemic when they were considered low priorities for care. To address this, HHS has proposed a rule that would update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to explicitly ban discriminatory treatment and establish enforceable standards for accessible equipment and electronic medical records.

Furthermore, NIH has designated people with disabilities as a population with health disparities, leading to increased funding and data collection to address barriers and structural issues. However, one significant barrier for older adults is their reluctance to identify themselves as disabled and engage with disability-oriented communities. Many are unaware of their rights and do not seek accommodations under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act.

Improving healthcare access for older adults with disabilities requires a comprehensive approach that includes awareness among healthcare providers, enforcement of regulations, and education for individuals on their rights and entitlements. By recognizing and addressing these challenges, we can ensure that older adults with disabilities receive the care and support they need in a healthcare system that is equipped to meet their needs.

An FAQ section based on the main topics and information presented in the article:

Q: What challenges do older adults with disabilities face in the healthcare system?
A: Older adults with disabilities face challenges related to biases from healthcare providers, lack of knowledge of their rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and a lack of accessible equipment and medical records.

Q: What initiatives have been launched to address these issues?
A: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have launched initiatives aimed at improving access to medical treatments and equipment for people with disabilities and conducting research to better understand their unique health concerns.

Q: How do biases from physicians affect the quality of care for individuals with disabilities?
A: Many physicians hold biases against individuals with disabilities, leading to a lower quality of care. One study found that 82% of physicians believed disabled individuals had a worse quality of life, and only 57% welcomed disabled patients.

Q: How does the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) relate to healthcare?
A: The ADA mandates equal access and accommodation for disabled individuals. Healthcare providers often lack knowledge of their responsibilities under the ADA, resulting in a lack of necessary equipment and inaccessible diagnostic imaging equipment.

Q: How has discrimination against older adults with disabilities been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Older adults with disabilities were considered low priorities for care during the pandemic, highlighting discriminatory treatment. To address this, HHS has proposed a rule to update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to explicitly ban discriminatory treatment and establish standards for accessible equipment and electronic medical records.

Q: What barriers do older adults with disabilities face in seeking accommodations?
A: One significant barrier is the reluctance of older adults to identify themselves as disabled and engage with disability-oriented communities. Many are unaware of their rights and do not seek accommodations under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act.

Q: What is needed to improve healthcare access for older adults with disabilities?
A: Improving healthcare access requires a comprehensive approach that includes awareness among healthcare providers, enforcement of regulations, and education for individuals on their rights and entitlements.

Key terms and jargon:
– COVID-19: The coronavirus disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
– Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): The United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans.
– National Institutes of Health (NIH): A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is the nation’s medical research agency.
– Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
– Rehabilitation Act of 1973: A law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, as well as programs receiving federal financial assistance.
– Health disparities: Differences in health outcomes and access to healthcare among different populations.

Suggested related links:
health.gov
nih.gov
hhs.gov

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