How To Communicate Effectively With The Elderly

an elderly woman smiling Whether you are looking after an elderly relative or work in a care home, communicating with a senior person can often be challenging. And it can be for a number of reasons. Elderly people who are in care homes may have multiple physical and mental ailments. Many of them will have their own beliefs and ideals which are different to the beliefs and ideals of most people in modern day society. And also, some elderly patients may face psychological issues such as dementia, making it extremely hard for them to take care of themselves. So it is crucial that you're able to develop and continuously improve your communication skills when speaking with the elderly. Because not only will your own job be a little bit easier, you'll also be able to build strong relationships with your elderly patients. The following 3 tips will help you communicate more effectively with the elderly:

1. Practice Empathy

One of the best ways to improve both your communication skills and your relationship with your elderly patients is to practice empathy. Empathy is really about understanding someone's else point of view. Some people have a natural ability in understanding someone's perspective. For others, empathy is a skill that can be learnt. To demonstrate empathy, try and imagine yourself in a senior person's shoes. If that person has arthritis, then you would know that the person will be physically moving much slower. In instances like these, you can say: “It must feel so hard to deal with arthritis every day. I can imagine it being an every day battle.” Having empathy is an effective way to exercise compassion and demonstrating patience. However, If your patience does run thin, just simply take a brief moment to take a time out (if possible) and then come back. You'll definitely have a calmer state of mind.

2. Ask, Don't Order

When looking after the elderly, it can be very easy to start talking to the elderly as if they're children. This is highly disrespectful. And you are in danger of putting an elderly patient in a low state of morale. The last thing an elderly person would want is to be treated so rudely. They want to feel welcomed and appreciated. And the best way to make them feel respected and relevant is to regularly ask questions instead of ordering when communicating with them. So, rather than saying: “You're having leek and potato soup for tea.” Say: “Would you like to have some freshly made leek and potato soup for tea this afternoon?” Can you see the difference? Out of the two statements, which would make you feel more appreciated and respected? My money is on the second one. You see, asking questions instead of ordering gives the recipient some degree of control. It makes them feel their involved in the decision making process. And it also makes them feel that their own opinion is valued.

3. Replace “You” with “I”

According to studies in effective communication, people don't respond well to being constantly ordered. So following on from the previous point, instead of using “bossy” language which involve “you” statements such as: “You must take your medication.” “You have to exercise today.” “You need to finish your soup.” “You should get some fresh air.” “You mustn't forget your appointment with your doctor” Rephrase these statements so that they begin with either “I,” “Let's,” “We,” “It,” and “This,” so it conveys a much more friendly tone. For example: “I will help you with your medication this afternoon.” “It's important you do some exercise today.” “Let's try and finish your soup, is that okay?” “We should get some fresh air together.” “This appointment with the doctor is very important.” When we try to order the elderly using “you” statements, they will feel bossed around. And it will likely trigger what psychologists call the Fight, Flight or Freeze response (also known as the Three F's). This can cause behavioural problems like confrontation, withdrawal or stonewalling. Using the latter statements reduces the Three F's response from happening. And allows your elderly patients to be more open and cooperative. And they'll be more willing to listen to what you have to say. Thank you for reading. Do you work with the elderly? Do you have any more tips to improves how you can communicate with the elderly? Featured image: Pixabay