First of all, communication is an important skill for anyone. It’s especially important as a caregiver. Good communication skills will lay the groundwork for your relationship with your patient to provide the best care possible. Your patient needs to feel that you are having a conversation with them—that you respect them—even if they cannot understand everything you are saying.
Communication Is More than Speaking and Listening
Second of all, when we think about communicating, two aspects come to mind immediately—speaking and listening. However, when you are going to speak about important topics with your aging patient, it would be wise to think things through carefully on your own before you actually talk with them. Focus on the specifics of what you want to cover.
In addition, what words we choose to use definitely matter when the topics are emotional ones! Don’t rush the conversation to a conclusion because that could prove frustrating to you and your aging patient. As we age, it takes longer to do things, and that includes thinking things over as ideas unfold. Realize the fact going in and don’t try to rush your patient into making decisions. The goal of this communication is to maximize the patient’s independence.
For this reason, learn about your patients’ backgrounds by asking questions about their lives. Also, ask the patient how they would like to spend their time, their likes and dislikes, about their family, etc. Try to find the communication method that works best with each individual patient early in your relationship. Always face your patients when you speak and always maintain eye contact; ask what they think would be good solutions.
Never Be Patronizing
Remember, you are talking to an adult, not a child. It is important to realize, the patronizing speech will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want to be spoken to in the situation. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. Be aware of the whole situation; many of the issues of aging can be solved by providing the patient with the support they need.