Why is communication important between caregiver and senior?
- Help one another understand and interact better
- Prevent misunderstandings due to ineffective communication
- Goal is for the communication to be productive
- Affect seniors quality of life if communication fails
- Lead to tension and conflict
- Lead to mood swings, anger, anxiety, frustration, depression
- Isolate themselves from society or social activities to prevent from speaking up
- Difficult to get help or attention that they need as they become less responsive
Why will seniors be hesitant to communicate?
- Neurological problem
- Affect ability to understand and interpret language, speech
- Other symptoms of dementia will worsen elderly’s ability to communicate
- Unclear speech
- Lead to them feeling discomfort and not confident in their communication skills so they avoid having conversations
- Cannot pick up cues
- Slower mental processing so cannot hold complex conversations
- Typical communication disorder that disrupts one’s ability to comprehend language
- Caused by stroke
- Speech disorder
- Painful to speak
- Affect pronunciation and rhythm of speech
- Related to Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and ALS
How to encourage seniors to communicate?
1. Be a considerate and empathetic listener
Let them finish what they want to say. Do not interrupt. Sometimes they may take a longer time and pause because they are thinking of what to say. Don’t take these moments of silence as them not wanting to reply to you. They may also have conditions that make it difficult for them to complete a full sentence. If you are aware of their conditions, think from their perspective and be considerate when conversing with them. Let them take control of the conversation so they can get their message across fully. The elderly will be more active in communication if they feel the recipient is an active listener and patient.
2. Do not be condescending
Elderly may interpret your actions and gestures differently. If your intention to speak louder and slower is to help the elderly hear better, do it in a way that won’t seem condescending to the elderly. They might get triggered and feel they are treated with disrespect. Unnecessary conflicts may start because of this. This will make communication more difficult for both parties.
3. Communicate at the right place
Ensure that the place is free of noise and disruptions. You can turn the background noise off for eg if the TV or radio is playing. If the elderly has hearing problems, face them when you are talking so they can rely on facial expressions and other cues when hearing you talk. Ensure that the distance between you and the elderly is not so far apart that it's hard to carry out conversations. These little, trivial inconveniences can go a long way in ensuring a smooth and effective conversation. The elderly will also be less annoyed as well and will feel better to communicate in a place free of distractors.
4. Ask questions
It takes lots of courage for the elderly to talk especially if they are depressed. In order to encourage them to speak, the other party can start the conversation first by asking questions. Asking questions can help to ease their anxiousness and make them talk. They will also feel appreciated that someone is curious to know about them. The other party will also get to know more about them better through the answers they give.