Tips for Talking to Seniors in Care Settings

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 24 August 2011

A previous post offered tips for visiting a senior loved one in assisted living/continuing care communities; these tips are focused on communication during that visit.

Often, when a senior family member or friend has transitioned to senior housing, a number of changes have occurred. Perhaps they moved due to the death of a spouse/partner, or they are experiencing a decline in vision, hearing, mobility or cognitive function. Others may have been lonely or isolated in their home and desired the interaction and activity of a community care setting.

All these changes come to bear on your relationship with the individual, so your communication may have to change too. Although it may be difficult, it’s important to maintain the connection and stay in touch by visiting, calling or writing often.

Sharon O’Brien of About.com offers these tips for effective communication with your senior friends and family members:

  1. Use an assistive listening device for phone conversations.
  2. For in-person visits, speak clearly, and face the person when you are talking to them.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Be aware of short-term memory deficits as a result of dementia.
  5. Watch for body language clues that might be saying “I’m tired” or “I’m frustrated” and be sensitive to the length of your visit.
  6. Allow them to grieve and reminisce.
  7. Respect their knowledge, values, and background – even if you disagree.

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