Communicating with Elderly Patients

Communication between care providers and their clients is the key to a successful relationship. However, communicating with older adults requires a different set of skills and strategies. As the Baby Boomer generation represents a large number of patients who require in-home care mastering and developing these skills is vital.

Don’t rush through information when you are explaining things, be patient and be prepared to explain things in different ways. Use active listening skills and don’t interrupt when they are talking.

Your elderly patients have spent decades taking care of themselves and that makes it difficult for them to accepts help from others or to allow others to control so much of their lives. Therefore, you should think about how you can phrase statements to allow your clients as much freedom as possible. Ask, instead of order. Say, “Would you like a salad for lunch?” instead of “You are having a salad for lunch.” These subtle differences will make your patients feel they are respected and in control of their environment.

On a similar note, ask, instead of assume. For example don’t turn off the television without first asking your client if it is alright.

Remember to be patient and practice compassion. Many of your older patients may have mental challenges, such as forgetfulness, as well as physical challenges, like slow or limited movement. If you find yourself becoming frustrated, think to yourself “it must not be easy to ….” Being mindful and intentional with your thoughts will help you remain patient.

Don’t rush through information when you are explaining things, be patient and be prepared to explain things in different ways. Use active listening skills and don’t interrupt when they are talking.

Remember you are there for them, give them the time they need to explain their needs or wishes to you. Actively listen to their stories and provide honest, clear, answers to their questions.

Another strategy to effective communication is to sit face to face with your patients. Many older patients have hearing difficulties and by sitting in front of them they can use lip reading to help them hear and understand you. It also lets them know you are focused on them, validating their opinions and perspective.

Older people are very perceptive and can sense when you are uninterested or distracted, this may cause them to shut down, making communication impossible. Give them your undivided attention and avoid distractions while during discussions.

Maintaining eye contact and minimizing distractions will also help to create a comfortable and positive atmosphere. As always be patient, remember that your older clients will need more time to transition thoughts into words and allow them all the time they need. Don’t interrupt them in an attempt to complete their sentences.

Speak to them slowly, clearly and loudly; use short simple words and sentences. Stick to one topic at a time or follow their lead in the conversation.

Remember each of your clients is different and don’t allow stereotypes to lead your judgment. Some of your clients may still have the mental capacity they had in their prime while others may struggle greatly with simple information. The keys to effective communication are don’t rush, don’t interrupt and pay attention.


For information on becoming a caregiver in the Greater Phoenix area, contact Good Neighbor Support Services.

West Valley: 623.932.4878
East Valley: 480.889.2683
North Valley: 602.507.4898

Online at http://www.gncares.com

Good Neighbor is a reputable provider of quality care and services for the elderly, adults, and children. We are highly experienced with dedicated management and highly trained caregivers. Last but not least, we are compassionate about the health and comfort of your loved ones and the needs of their families.

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