How to Communicate Effectively With Older Adults

Communicating with older adults can be a challenge. They may have multiple mental and physical conditions that make it difficult for them to communicate with their loved ones. They may be faced with something that is psychological, such as dementia that makes it hard for them to care for themselves. But in the end, learning to communicate effectively with your senior can have numerous rewards.

Get face to face with them. Doing this can help facilitate communication. Many times older adults will have hearing or vision loss and they may depend on watching your lips while you speak or your facial expressions to understand what you are saying. Sitting face to face will help eliminate any visual distractions there may be and will give them the feeling that they are important. Make sure to turn off your devices to avoid any interruptions and maintain eye contact with them. Speak clearly and use a volume and rate of speech that is appropriate for them. It is also very important to listen to what they have to say back to you.

Do not hesitate to repeat or rephrase your questions and sentences if they seem to not understand. Use direct questions such as, “Did you have soup for lunch?” Try to limit your sentences to less than 20 words and avoid using filler words or slang. Keep your sentences brief and to the point. Pause between sentences and questions to make sure that they clearly understand what you have asked them. Pausing shows them that you have respect and patience. Only talk about one thing at a time. Talking about too many things at one time may confuse the person.

Using visual aids can also help the person understand what you are trying to talk to them about. If it is possible, show the person what you are talking about. If you are asking them if they are in pain, point to the body part you are asking them about.

Also, be aware of any cultural differences there may be. Different cultures will have different beliefs as to how their elders are treated. Being aware of these differences can help to avoid any accidental insults or misunderstandings.

The staff at Nurses Guild are trained to communicate and care for older adults in their homes. They have the compassion and understanding to make your loved one feel as comfortable as possible, while allowing them to stay in their homes as long as possible.