17 Guidelines for Interacting with Seniors
Working with an elderly population can require special understanding. Keep these tips in mind when interacting with older patients in therapy:
- Stand or sit face-to-face when conversing. Kneel when speaking to patients in wheelchairs.
- Ask the patient to complete one task at a time.
- Ask only one question at a time, and allow adequate time for the patient to respond.
- Respond to a patient’s intended message, not just the words they use.
- Remember to repeat questions as needed to help patients return to original topics.
- Use many ways to communicate: words, gestures, facial expressions and supportive touches.
- Take turns frequently in conversation.
- If a patient withdraws from conversation, tell him or her that you understand that he or she does not wish to talk now. Sit quietly with the patient or return later.
- Remember the importance of consistency. Establish routines in as many activities as possible.
- Give encouragement frequently.
- If necessary, do not forget to identify yourself each time you begin an interaction.
- Use specific and familiar words.
- Speak slowly with low volume. For patients who are hard of hearing, speak face-to-face with a higher volume.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Preview upcoming happenings/events.
- If you repeat something, repeat it exactly as you said it the first time.
- Communicate about what is familiar to the patient, e.g. family pictures, hobbies.
Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.