As we age, our healthcare needs often become more complex and interrelated. We may have multiple chronic conditions, take multiple medications, and require various types of support and services. To provide effective and compassionate care for older adults, healthcare professionals need to approach their work as more than just a set of clinical tasks. They need to establish and nurture relationships with their patients and their families.
To provide better care for older adults, the conventional approach to healthcare focusing solely on diagnosis and treatment falls short. Instead, there is a growing need for a “relational model” which prioritizes open communication, cooperative efforts, and mutual reliance between care providers and their patients.
The relational model has several key components:
- Listening: Healthcare providers should take the time to listen to their patients’ stories, concerns, and goals, and incorporate these into their care plans. This requires an open and respectful attitude and the ability to elicit and respond to patients’ feedback.
- Teamwork: Healthcare providers should work collaboratively with other professionals and caregivers who are involved in the care of older adults, such as nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and family members. This requires effective communication, coordination, and mutual respect.
- Continuity: Healthcare providers should strive to establish long-term relationships with their patients, rather than just treating them for a specific episode or condition. This requires ongoing monitoring, follow-up, and adjustment of care plans based on changing needs and preferences.
- Trust: Healthcare providers should earn and maintain the trust of their patients by being honest, transparent, and accountable. This requires ethical and respectful behavior, as well as a willingness to acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
The relational model is not only more humane and patient-centered, but also more effective and efficient in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.
An essential component of the StudentsCare Senior Buddy Program is to create long lasting intergenerational relationships. Through this incredible program, volunteers build meaningful connections with older adults and cultivate empathy that will carry out into their everyday lives and propel them forward as the healthcare providers of the future. By training our volunteers in active listening and empathy, our unique program makes a lasting difference in the development of future healthcare professionals. Geriatric medicine is not just about treating diseases or managing symptoms. It is about building and sustaining relationships that promote health, well-being, and dignity in later life. We believe that healthcare providers who embrace the relational model can make a real difference in the lives of their patients and their families and contribute to a more compassionate and effective healthcare system for older adults.