The stages of life are a natural progression that every human being goes through. These stages can have a significant influence on healthcare, as a person’s healthcare needs and experiences change as they age. In this essay, I will explore the stages of life and how they impact healthcare from a patient’s perspective. I will also share the experiences of a friend or family member with the healthcare system and how their age influenced their healthcare experiences.
The stages of life can be broadly categorized into childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Each stage is characterized by unique physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that influence a person’s healthcare needs and experiences. In childhood, healthcare is focused on preventative care such as vaccinations, regular check-ups, and treating common childhood illnesses such as ear infections and strep throat. Adolescents have unique healthcare needs such as reproductive health, mental health, and preventative care for sexually transmitted infections. In adulthood, healthcare needs may shift to managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, while in old age, healthcare may be focused on managing multiple chronic conditions and maintaining functional independence.
To gain insight into the patient experience across different stages of life, I interviewed my grandmother, who is in her late 80s. I asked her about her experiences with the healthcare system and how her age has influenced her healthcare needs and experiences. Here are some of the key insights from our conversation:
Childhood: My grandmother recalled regular visits to the pediatrician for vaccinations and check-ups, as well as visits to urgent care for common childhood illnesses such as ear infections. She recalled feeling scared and anxious during some of these visits but was comforted by her mother’s presence.
Adolescence: My grandmother recalled little access to reproductive health education and services during her adolescence, and when she did seek care, it was stigmatized and seen as taboo. She recalled feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed during these visits and wished there was more open and accessible care available.
Adulthood: My grandmother recalled managing chronic conditions such as hypertension and osteoporosis in her adulthood, and the importance of regular check-ups and medication management. She also recalled feeling frustrated at times with the healthcare system’s focus on treating symptoms rather than addressing underlying causes of illness.
Old Age: My grandmother recalled the importance of maintaining independence and the role of healthcare in facilitating that independence. She shared her experiences with home health aides, physical therapy, and specialized care for chronic conditions. She also expressed the importance of finding providers who listen and take the time to understand her needs and concerns.
Overall, my grandmother’s experiences highlight the importance of patient-centered care across all stages of life. The healthcare system must be responsive to the unique needs and experiences of patients, including the influence of age on healthcare needs and experiences. By understanding and addressing these needs, we can provide better, more effective healthcare for patients of all ages.