How to Encourage Senior Patients to Develop Better Eating Habits

It is not easy to stick to a New Year’s Resolution because it requires you to change your behavior over a long time period. Most people have difficulty changing their lifestyle habits, especially older adults who are accustomed to them. Even if older adults realize that lifestyle changes are needed to improve their health, they still cannot make the change without assistance.

Motivational Interviewing

If you need to change your patients’ lifestyle choices, you can start by taking a conversational approach called motivational interviewing. This approach focuses on helping primary care physicians and their patients to identify the challenges or hurdles which are preventing the patients from changing their unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Unfortunately, a typical doctor-patient relationship doesn’t involve motivational interviewing because it requires the doctor to spend more time with their patients to understand their situation better. Instead, the doctor will usually give generalized textbook advice to their patients and a list of prewritten instructions for them to follow.

However, these instructions will not necessarily address the patient’s specific lifestyle challenges and obstacles. That is why the traditional approach is ineffective for treating patients. So if you want to overcome this problem with your patients, you need to ditch the traditional approach and adopt the motivational interviewing approach instead.

Motivational interviewing requires the patient and doctor to work together as partners. Both sides share information through open discussions and active listening to determine the best path for the patient to take going forward. Not only does this help the primary care physician target the patient’s motivations, obstacles, and setbacks, but it also allows the patient and doctor to develop trust for one another.

Trust is vital because patients will listen to their doctors more often if they trust them. Numerous medical research studies have proven that motivational interviewing is a highly effective way of boosting trust between patients and doctors. Once trust gets established, patients are more comfortable talking about the obstacles holding them back from achieving their health goals.

In response, doctors can offer practical advice to patients to help them overcome these obstacles. Since there is trust now, the patients will likely follow the advice rather than ignore it.

How Motivational Interviewing Helps Senior Patients 

Many primary care physicians are afraid to talk to senior patients about crucial topics like weight and nutrition because they don’t want to offend them. Unfortunately, this fear can be attributed to the lack of trust and personal connection between doctors and their patients.

If you can get over this hurdle and develop trust with your patient, you may feel more comfortable telling them the trust about the status of their weight and nutrition. Furthermore, your patients are more likely to listen to your advice without getting offended or judgmental about your opinion. That is just one more example of why motivational interviewing can overcome common setbacks between doctors and patients.

Of course, you don’t want to be overly critical of a patient’s weight and nutrition. For example, when you begin talking with a senior patient about their weight, you could bring up the topic casually. Perhaps you would say something like: “I see your weight has increased about 20 pounds since your last visit. Is everything okay?” Make the topic comfortable for them to talk about without any judgment or criticism cast at them.

Focus on asking “why” questions regarding their weight and nutrition. Why do you want to lose weight and improve your health? Why do you want to eat better foods to control your diabetes? These questions put the patient in charge of the conversation rather than the doctor. It allows the patient to address their health goals and setbacks. Then you can respond by offering solutions to managing their setbacks and helping them achieve their health goals.

If a patient has trouble quitting sugary foods to reverse their diabetes, ask them, “why do you have trouble quitting sugary foods?” Then you could develop a plan for the patient to quit the sugary foods gradually rather than all at once. In addition, you could educate the patient on how quitting sugary foods can help them reverse diabetes, lose weight, and achieve their health goals. Once they learn about all the positive effects of reducing their sugar intake, they will be more motivated to do it.

Learn More About Motivational Interviewing 

Motivational interviewing is the best way to help your patients make healthier decisions regarding their eating habits and overall physical and mental well-being. Of course, don’t expect positive results to be achieved after the first interview with a patient. You must conduct numerous interactions with each patient to build a high level of trust between you and them. That is when you can learn more about their setbacks and offer practical advice they will follow.

Call the Primary Medical Care Center at (305) 751-1500 to learn more about motivational interviewing and how it can help you offer better medical advice and care to your senior patients.