Communication with the Elderly Population
Communication with the Elderly Population
When dealing with the public, there are always going to be barriers in communication. Race, sex, and disabilities are just a few examples of the challenges we face every day. In the medical field however, these challenges are magnified and the challenges present themselves in different ways. This is especially true with the elderly population.
It is fair to say that when people get older, their senses can become dulled. A very common side effect to getting older is hearing loss. This makes it very difficult to communicate. People with hearing loss will not understand exactly what you are saying and can often misinterpret what they hear. This poses a significant problem when trying to identify why an elderly person is seeking medical attention. It is often possible for the hearing impaired to be slightly self conscious about their disability and pretend to understand what you are telling them. This can lead to false diagnosis, or the administration of medications that the patient might be allergic to. It is very important to identify when a person presents with a hearing impairment and utilize alternate methods of communication. Some examples might be speaking louder and clearly, the use of hand gestures, or writing the questions and answers down for the person. Additionally, one should sit face to face with a hearing impaired person. Whether it is total hearing loss, or the hard of hearing patient, in many cases these people rely on reading another’s lips. (Robinson, White, & Houchins, 2006)
Another sense that tends to dwindle is vision. People who do not see clearly, or suffer from blindness, tend to enhance the other senses to make up for the loss. These people will often hear more than the average person. These people also interpret those sounds differently thus depending greatly on what they hear or are told. When presented with a person like this, it is vital that you speak clearly and explain your actions to them thoroughly. People with vision limitations tend to need reassurance due to the fact that they trust what is being told to them. In communicating with a visually impaired person, one should never assume that the person recognizes your voice. Identify yourself from the start. This will establish trust and will ensure that the conversation starts in a positive fashion. Always face the listener. This will make it easier for them to hear you. Typically, persons with vision limitations will not present with hearing impairments. There is no need to shout. People need to remember that their facial expressions and hand gestures will not be visible. One should always speak in a normal tone and avoid sarcasm and funny faces. The visually impaired will not pick up on the signs that a normal sighted person would. (Unknown, 2011) Dementia Patients
Dementia is defined as a deterioration of higher cortical functions: memory, problem solving, learned motor skills, social and communication skills and control of emotional reactions. As is clearly defined, these patients present several challenges in communication. Simple skills like speaking or common everyday motor skills can be lost. This will sometimes make it difficult for a dementia patient to communicate. Word meanings can be lost. The ability to verbalize the words they want to use may be gone. In these situations it is important to stay calm and focused. Attempting to communicate with dementia patients can be very exhausting and trying. Screaming will not improve the conversation. These people may not react the way you expect due to their inability to control their emotional response. Using simple words and explanations is a great place to start. In some ways, you have to regress the conversations to that you might have with a child. Remember that communication skills diminish and memory loss is a key factor with...
References: Robinson, TE, White, GL, & Houchins, JC. (2006). Improving communication with the older population. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17022433?dopt=Abstract
Larkin, Carole. (2011). Ten tips for communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/03/ten-tips-for-communicating-with.html
Aisen PS, Schneider LS, Sano M, Diaz-Arrastia R, van Dyck CH, et al. High-dose B vitamin supplementation and cognitive decline in Alzheimer 's disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300:1774-1783.
Querfurth HW, LaFerla FM. Alzheimer 's disease. N Engl J Med. 2010 Jan 28;362(4):329-44.
Unknown, Initials. (2011, August 03). Communication strategies: talk between people with and without visual impairments. Retrieved from http://tcbdevito.blogspot.com/2011/08/communication-strategies-talk-between.html
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