Processing of Medical Information in Aging Patients: Cognitive and Human Factors Perspectives

Processing of Medical Information in Aging Patients: Cognitive and Human Factors Perspectives

Processing of Medical Information in Aging Patients: Cognitive and Human Factors Perspectives

Processing of Medical Information in Aging Patients: Cognitive and Human Factors Perspectives

Synopsis

This volume focuses on understanding the impact of age-related decline in cognitive abilities on medical decisions and compliance with medical instructions. It examines how medical information and the medical environment can be restructured to accommodate the decreased cognitive function associated with aging. Although the issues discussed in this book are of critical importance in providing effective health care, they have been largely neglected in the national debate over provision of health care for the increasingly aging population. It is essential that we begin to understand how to present information so that informed choices are made and patients comprehend well enough that they can follow their treatment regimens and understand the importance of those regimens.

Divided into four major sections, this volume addresses the following issues:

• the implications of cognitive aging for medical information processing;

• aging and medical decision making;

• aging and medication adherence; and

• human factors design for medical devices and instructions.

Excerpt

As people age, the cognitive resources they have available to process information become more limited, There is convincing evidence in the basic processes literature on cognitive aging that demonstrates that the speed at which information can be processed declines with age and that online cognitive capacity (often referred to as working memory) shows similar declines. Although there are hundreds of studies documenting these findings in the laboratory, relatively little is known about the implications of this decline in processing capacity for functioning in everyday life. One domain in which age-associated decline in cognitive processing resources may be of particular importance is the medical domain. Older adults frequently must decide about conditions and issues for which they have limited information, and the consequences of a decision often have implications for their physical well-being and even for their survival. Given the more limited cognitive resources available to older adults, it seems likely that they comprehend and remember less than younger adults of the information presented to them by their physicians and other health providers. Also, the factors that are important to them in making a medical decision or representing their health conditions, may be somewhat different than those of younger adults. Moreover, because older adults typically have more experience with illness and medical settings due to their longer life history and increasing consumption of medical care with age, on average, they bring more general medical experience and expertise to treatment settings than younger adults do. Does this increased expertise compensate for processing declines? Does limited processing capacity combined with expertise qualitatively change the manner in which older adults process information in the medical setting? When older adults are at a disadvantage due to cognitive declines, how can medical information and the medical environment be restructured to be compatible with the cognitive system of the older adult?

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