5 Tips for Nurses to Effectively Communicate with Elderly Patients

Effective communication facilitates positive patient outcomes. This is especially important when it comes to caring for senior patients. Older patients may have conditions such as hearing loss, vision impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s. You might also have to address sensitive topics, like end-of-life care, with older patients.

When treating the elderly, it’s important to take the time to understand their conditions and circumstances. These 5 tips will help you produce significant long-term returns in positive patient outcomes.

Start with the Right Body Language

Being in a seated position directly opposite your patient will naturally improve communication by reducing distractions. By exhibiting confidence, your patient sees that you are focused on them completely. Eye contact is also important. This commands their attention and helps patients decipher your facial clues if needed.

Be Patient

Sometimes you might have to repeat talking points several times before your patient can fully understand the message, but it’s imperative that you stay patient! If your communication with the patient requires too much repetition, slow down and speak clearly until the patient can understand. Elderly patients also may take longer to react during the conversation, so give them some time to respond at their pace.

Respect Your Elders

The saying “respect your elders,” is indispensable during treatment. As their provider, you should remember that elderly clients may have different opinions about current topics. Be sure to acknowledge the varied opinions and experiences they bring to the table. Just by doing that, you start to narrow the unavoidable generational gap during the communication process.

Build Rapport

Having rapport with any patient is important. This starts with making sure that all personnel create positive interactions. Start by having each employee properly introducing themselves and find out the patient’s’ name preference. Call the patient by name as much as possible, as it will create an air of familiarity and will encourage the patient to participate in wellness planning.

Empathy is also something that builds rapport. When the elderly patient feels as though your understand and identify with their concerns, communication between both parties will improve.

Recognize Sensory Challenges

Distractions, such as too many accompanying caregivers, cognitive impairments or hearing loss can make communication difficult. Even though this is something you can not immediately fix, it’s important to keep these conditions in context.

When communication between you and your elderly patient isn’t going well, it can produce outcomes that can cause treatment to fail altogether. As a nurse, you should be prepared and confident in working with a patient of any age!

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