Communicating With Elderly Patients

Many elderly patients have hearing loss and cognitive issues that make communication more challenging. Care givers working in health care in Silver Spring Maryland can adopt several strategies to help.

Slow Down and Simplify

Both hearing loss and cognitive issues make it more difficult for elderly people to understand rapid and complex speech. Slow down, and simplify your sentence structure. Pause in between main ideas. Do not talk to the senior as if she is a child, but avoid using difficult vocabulary words. If a senior does not understand something, try rephrasing or adding gestures. Give the senior cues about what you’re discussing, such as a picture. Face the person so that she can read lips. When you change the subject, let the senior know that you are changing the topic. If you are talking in a group, slow down the transitions in between people. Give the senior time to shift attention between individuals.

Change the Environment

Background noise makes it hard for seniors to hear and process sounds. Turn down the television, reduce hallway noise, and minimize machine sounds. Make the room lighting natural, not harsh, so that the senior can read lips. Avoid standing in front of windows, which casts a shadow on your face. Invest in carpeting and wall treatments to reduce reverberation.

Hearing Help

There are numerous programs available to help senior citizens get hearing aids, including Starkey Hear Now and Lions Club programs. Veterans should contact the nearest Veterans’ Administration hospital to see if they qualify. If the senior cannot or will not wear hearing aids, consider using a Pocket Talker. The Pocket Talker is a set of earphones that deliver amplified sound to the ears. Seniors with good vision may benefit from automatic captioning applications. There are special captioning telephones available.

Some simple tactics can help you communicate with elderly patients. Simplify and slow down speaking, reduce noise, and maximize remaining hearing with amplification and other technology.