5 tips for better communication with elderly people
In this blog we explore how to improve communication with elderly people. Follow our 5 tips for better communication with the elderly and reap the rewards of better engagement with older people.
Whether this is required as part of your work or if you have elderly relatives, it pays to understand how to communicate well with older people who may have problems with hearing, concentration or understanding.
1. What is going on in the background?
Elderly patients in particular who may find everyday problems very stressful, will deeply appreciate effective communication, and some patients may even be offended if communication is not effected in an appropriate manner. In Jewish care homes for example, it has been proven that elderly people benefit from being surrounded by people sensitive, not only to their care needs but also to their communication, cultural, emotional and personal needs.
When communicating with an elderly person, noise in the background can be very distracting for both you and the person listening.
If a radio, or TV is on in the background, it may be a good idea to turn it off or turn it down before any attempt to communicate.
2. Voice control
Your voice is the main resource you have in any attempt to communicate with an elderly person, so be prepared to use your voice to project speech more powerfully, to slow down if necessary or to vary your tone or volume to ensure you are understood. When communicating with an elderly person, it is a good idea to consider why someone may have asked you to repeat yourself, and respond by communicating more appropriately rather than just repeating yourself.
3. Choices to make decisions easier
When communicating with someone who may have a tendency to become confused, communication can be improved through offering them choices and options, so instead of saying ‘would you like to get out of bed’, you could say ‘will I help you sit in your chair or would you prefer to stay in bed?’. Giving choices not only makes it easier to be understood, but it provides an easier route to reply for the listener who may struggle with communication as well as listening.
4. Active listening
Once you have made sure you have been heard, it is a good idea to check whether the person has both understood and remembered what you have said. When communicating with the elderly, making yourself heard is one thing, but making yourself understood is quite another. Consider whether the person listening has both heard and understood what you have said, and if necessary you can ask questions to confirm their understanding or to find out whether you need to do more to get your message across. If you know you will be communicating with a person who gets confused easily, it may help to use short questions and sentences to ensure you get your point across.
When dealing with an elderly person who may be confused or find hearing more difficult, you need to be prepared to be patient. Don’t try to communicate if you are stressed or in a rush to get something done, as you may come across as impatient which can cause offence or frustration. When speaking to an elderly person, make sure you have enough time to put your point across, and then check you have been heard and understood.
Check out http://www.nightingalehammerson.org/ for more great tips on elderly care.