An assessment of health literacy in independent rural older adults

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


Adequate health literacy can increase an older adult's ability to manage treatment options, promotes informed decisions concerning self-care, and can play an important part in improving public health while decreasing healthcare costs. The purpose of this project was to assess general health literacy and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) health literacy in independent older rural adults, explore their use of CAM and over the counter (OTC) medications and their sources of information regarding these therapies, and determine if health literacy and CAM health literacy levels changed based on prior experience with the questionnaire used in this project. Two questionnaires were administered to 30 rural independent older adults approximately 4 weeks apart. Descriptive statistics, paired samples t tests, and correlations were utilized for analysis. To measure general health literacy, three measures were used: Newest Vital Sign (NVS), a single question, and PEPPI. It was found that participants in this project had confidence in their ability to communicate with their provider, had average to above average general health literacy, and on average, were moderately health literate about CAM. Participants were less likely to have used CAM in the last five years than previous research and they frequently referred to their provider for information regarding CAM therapies. The majority of the participants had used OTC medicines in the last year, and mainly received their information regarding OTC medicines from their healthcare provider. There was no change in the participants' scores on the instruments used in this project with repeated exposure to the questionnaires. The results of the Health Information-Seeking Instrument allowed for the exploration of participants' tendency to seek health information. The results suggested that those participants who had a higher average income were more likely to seek health information than those with a lower annual income. This study has implications that are important to patient care. Determining the health literacy of the patient is of utmost importance in order to provide quality care to older adults. As a provider, it is important to understand a patient's health literacy level and to monitor this level over time.




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