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October is Health Literacy Month

by: Patti Urban, CDP, CSA

That's right! October is Health Literacy Month, dedicated to promoting understanding of health information and improving healthcare communication. It's an important initiative to empower people to make informed decisions about their health.

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy refers to an individual's ability to understand, process, and use health-related information effectively to make informed decisions about their health and healthcare. It involves various skills, including reading, listening, analyzing, and applying medical information. High health literacy is essential for individuals to navigate the healthcare system, make appropriate healthcare choices, and maintain their well-being. It also plays a crucial role in improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

Who can Help with Health Literacy?

Several individuals and organizations can help with health literacy:

  • Healthcare Providers: Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists can explain medical information, provide clear instructions, and answer questions to enhance patients' understanding.

  • Health Educators: Professionals specializing in health education can offer guidance on health topics, promote health literacy, and provide resources.

  • Patient Advocates: These individuals can support patients in understanding their healthcare options, rights, and responsibilities.

  • Community Organizations: Nonprofits and community groups often offer programs and resources to improve health literacy, especially in underserved communities.

  • Libraries: Libraries may provide access to reliable health information and offer assistance in finding and understanding health resources.

  • Online Resources: Websites, apps, and online forums can provide valuable health information and tools for improving health literacy.

  • Government Health Agencies: Agencies like the CDC and NIH offer educational materials and guidelines to enhance public health literacy.

  • Support Groups: Joining support groups or patient communities can help individuals learn from others who have faced similar health challenges.

  • Family and Friends: Loved ones can offer emotional support, accompany individuals to medical appointments, and help with understanding health information.

Improving health literacy often involves a combination of these resources and a proactive approach to seeking and understanding health information.

How Can a Geriatric Care Manager Help with Health Literacy?

A geriatric care manager (GCM) can play a crucial role in improving health literacy among older adults in several ways:

  • Assessing Health Literacy: A GCM can assess the individual's current level of health literacy to identify specific areas where assistance is needed.

  • Explaining Medical Information: They can translate complex medical jargon and explanations into plain language, making it easier for older adults to understand their health conditions, medications, and treatment options.

  • Coordinating Healthcare: GCMs can help organize and coordinate healthcare services, ensuring that older adults receive the appropriate tests, treatments, and follow-up care while explaining the reasons behind these recommendations.

  • Medication Management: They can assist with medication management by explaining medication schedules, potential side effects, and the importance of adherence.

  • Advocacy: GCMs can advocate on behalf of the older adult, ensuring their questions are answered during medical appointments and that their preferences and needs are considered in healthcare decisions.

  • Connecting with Specialists: When necessary, GCMs can help older adults find and communicate with specialists, ensuring they receive comprehensive care.

  • Providing Resources: GCMs can provide access to reliable health resources and educational materials that empower older adults to learn more about their health conditions.

  • Caregiver Education: GCMs can educate family caregivers about the older adult's health needs and how to support their loved one effectively.

  • Crisis Management: In emergency situations, GCMs can provide guidance and support, helping older adults and their families make informed decisions quickly.

In essence, geriatric care managers serve as advocates and educators, helping older adults and their families navigate the complexities of healthcare and improve their health literacy, which is particularly important in the context of geriatric care where health issues can be more complex and multifaceted.


Patti Urban, CDP, CSA, is the CEO of Aging Care Planning Solutions, a geriatric care management practice that assists the elderly and their families with advance care planning as well as guidance for patients with life-limiting illnesses. She is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified End of Life Doula, a Certified Senior Advisor, former Executive Director of a memory-care assisted living community, and former owner of a home care agency. She can be reached at

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