As the new generation of healthcare professionals continues to grow, so are the ways in which we communicate. Communication strategies change, grow and evolve depending on several different variables, such as culture, training, and even language barriers. 

Communication is tricky

Communication is oftentimes already complex and tricky, which in old age may be simultaneously impacted by normal processes, such as hearing issues or possibly even a slower processing of information. Additionally, because of the higher probability of older adults having experienced a wide array of life experiences, certain words or comments may subjectively trigger an emotional reaction within the older adult. This can further complicate the communication process between the healthcare professional and patient relationship.

Pressure on Professionals

Naturally, the amount of pressure that a healthcare professional has to deal with is huge. Oftentimes, backs are against the walls to deliver care or provide a service to one patient and then immediately move onto the other. As a result of this, we often also tend to speed up the way we communicate with our patients, leading to a breakdown in the delivery of the message we want to share to our patients. Consequently, when working with older adults, a healthcare professional must always keep in mind that a poor level of communication with older adults may influence the delivery of care as old age is no laughing matter.

So, what can we do to help facilitate positive communication strategies with older adults? There are several options: 

  1. Try to provide additional time, even if it’s just an extra two minutes. This allows older people not to feel rushed and helps them feel comfortable and listened to. 
  1. Building on the above, allow older adults to ask repeated questions. Despite possibly feeling tired, do not get frustrated easily. They are not intending to frustrate you. 
  1. Enable certain active listening skills that show you care. These skills can be certain strategies such as keeping eye contact, sitting opposite your older adult patient, and using replies such as ‘I understand’ helps let them know that you are there, you are understanding their concerns, and you are listening. 
  1. Show your older adult patients some empathy. Show them you are understanding, and you are validating their emotions. This has immense positive effects. 
  1. Finally, whilst it may be difficult at times, try to avoid medical jargon and complicated words. Older adults may not always know what medical terminologies mean or what you are referring to. 

Remember, a good and effective professional-patient communication process has been scientifically proven to positively impact the healing process, with an overall greater satisfaction being exhibited by both sides.  

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here

Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with clients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Yaser Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.