How to communicate effectively with your senior patients

Patient and provider interacting

Effective communication is the foundation of your patient relationships. These communication tips will help you connect with your senior patients so you can bring them the best possible care and improve their quality of life.

Speak with respect

It’s important to treat senior patients like adults. Any physical, cognitive or sensory impairments they have shouldn’t affect how you speak to them. Try to avoid using informal terms like “dear” or “honey.” And at the beginning of the conversation, ask the patient how they want to be addressed.

Provide assistance

Ensure senior patients are comfortable when meeting with them. Staff should periodically check on patients when they need to wait for long periods of time. Patients may need help standing up from their chair, walking from room to room or getting onto an exam table.

Speak slowly

Avoid talking fast when speaking to senior patients. Not all patients will have the ability to keep up with questions or information and may need extra time to process what they hear. Try not to interrupt the patient either, as they are less likely to open up about their questions and concerns after being shut down.

Maintain eye contact

Eye contact is key when talking to senior patients. Avoid speaking when you’re turned away from the patient because it may be difficult for them to hear you. Some patients need to read lips or watch body language to help them understand the conversation.

Provide takeaway points

After an appointment, senior patients may struggle to remember everything discussed. Write down or print out information such as health history, treatment plans, prescriptions or other important details they may need to refer to later.

Accommodate for visual or hearing deficiencies

Visual and hearing deficiencies are common among senior patients. Here are some ways you can accommodate senior patients during appointments:

Visual accommodations:

  • Provide adequate lighting to avoid shadows
  • Write clearly when handwriting notes
  • Use bigger fonts and diagrams on printouts

Hearing accommodations:

  • Talk clearly and in your usual tone
  • Face the patient when speaking
  • Pause briefly before changing the subject

With these tips, you can help senior patients feel comfortable and confident during appointments.

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