Working with an elderly population can require special understanding. Keep these tips in mind when interacting with older patients in therapy:

  1. Stand or sit face-to-face when conversing. Kneel when speaking to patients in wheelchairs.
  2. Ask the patient to complete one task at a time.
  3. Ask only one question at a time, and allow adequate time for the patient to respond.
  4. Respond to a patient’s intended message, not just the words they use.
  5. Remember to repeat questions as needed to help patients return to original topics.
  6. Use many ways to communicate: words, gestures, facial expressions and supportive touches.
  7. Take turns frequently in conversation.
  8. 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.
  9. Remember the importance of consistency. Establish routines in as many activities as possible.
  10. Give encouragement frequently.
  11. If necessary, do not forget to identify yourself each time you begin an interaction.
  12. Use specific and familiar words.
  13. Speak slowly with low volume. For patients who are hard of hearing, speak face-to-face with a higher volume.
  14. Maintain eye contact.
  15. Preview upcoming happenings/events.
  16. If you repeat something, repeat it exactly as you said it the first time.
  17. 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.

By Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services