How to Communicate with Seniors

How to Communicate with Seniors

talking to a seniorIt is inevitable, everyone gets older and as we do, our bodies and senses change. At times, normal daily activities are challenging and require assistance from a geriatric care nurse or a home health professional. While our loved ones in geriatric care are still capable of having productive conversations and engaging others, there are a couple factors to consider when communicating.

First, when communicating with your loved ones, be sure to speak clearly and slowly. As people get older and enter into geriatric care, the ability to hear can sometimes be impaired slightly and sometimes drastically. While many seniors can hear or even read lips if they have substantial hearing loss, it is extremely helpful if you enunciate your words clearly, try not to talk fast and speak at a volume that is easy for them to hear. Especially if your loved one is receiving hearing therapy, be sure to ask their therapy nurse or geriatric care physician about their impairment and how you can make your conversations easier to understand. 1

Another important aspect of communicating with loved ones in geriatric care is non-verbal communication. While your loved one may be receiving therapy for hearing loss, many people are still able to read non-verbal communication if you are frustrated or upset with them because of their impairment or because they are repeating themselves. Be cognoscente of what your facial expressions and hand gestures say despite what your words may be trying to convey. Remember, they aren’t trying to struggle to hear you or repeat themselves.

Furthermore, when communicating with seniors try to be a good listener. Try not to interrupt them – even if they are in geriatric care for a debilitating mental disease or memory loss and tell you a story multiple times. Try to stay patient and listen with both verbal and non-verbal cues to show that you are interested in what they have to say. This is very important for a senior’s mental and emotional health.

In addition, communicating with a senior in geriatric care, especially if they are receiving therapy house calls for hearing impairment, be aware of your environment and try to cut down background noise so they can hear you and understand your words. Turn off your cell phone to limit distractions and turn off the radio or television if necessary. Also, it is helpful for seniors when you are at the same level as them for conversations. So, if they are sitting in a wheelchair, try to sit at their level to speak with them rather than talking to them standing above. This also makes it easier for them to read your lips if necessary.

Finally, use humor and reminisce when communicating with seniors. Laughter is universal medicine for awkward situations or challenging times, so don’t be afraid to make a joke with your loved one. In addition, seniors love to look at old pictures and tell stories from their childhood or past times. It is extremely helpful for their mental and emotional health to look back, tell stories and feel like the listener is interested and engaged.

What other tips do you have for communicating with seniors?

 1 Miller, A. (2013) Tips on Effective Communication With the Elderly. 
Retrieved Sept. 26, 2014