For carers and family members providing care and support for elderly relatives, communication is of the utmost importance. Improving your communication skills with those you care for will improve everyone’s experience.
Why Is It Important to Communicate Effectively with Elderly Individuals?
Communicating effectively with elderly relatives or friends can help them in many different ways.
- Improves medical care – People are more likely to follow medical advice when it is simple and clear to understand. Studies show that outcomes improve when patients fully understand their medical advice and feel heard and understood in return.
- Prevents medication errors – Medication errors account for up to 22,000 deaths each year in the UK, tragedies that could be prevented with better communication between doctors, chemists, and patients. It is especially crucial that your elderly relatives or friends understand how to take their medication as prescribed.
- Strengthens relationships – People feel their best when they feel listened to and understood. By improving your communication with elderly individuals, you will build trust and improve your overall relationship.
- Make your interaction more efficient – Effective communication helps you make the most of your time during a care visit.
Tips from HARTMANN Direct To Help You Communicate Better with Elderly Relatives And Friends
HARTMANN Direct was founded on the principles of maintaining the dignity of our clients and respecting their healthcare needs. These tips can help you improve your communication style and more effectively communicate with people you are caring for.
- Respect each person’s identity, and consistently address them by their preferred name or title when meeting someone for the first time. Start with a formal greeting and take your cues from the individual for the level of formality moving forward.
- Never infantilise older adults or speak to them as if they were children, in both speaking style and content.
- Do not stigmatise their cognitive or functional deficits, including incontinence or dementia.
- Respect the person’s need for a slower pace. An elderly person may have slower psychomotor responses, and they will appreciate your efforts to anticipate impaired mobility.
- To ensure that complex information is communicated effectively, repeat it in a number of different ways, and write it down on a piece of paper.
- Assess any possible communication barriers (including hearing loss, vision problems, and cognitive issues) and adapt your communication methods.
- Always stay within the person’s field of vision, speak clearly, and maintain eye contact. If the person requires compensatory aids, ensure that they are in use.
- As people get older, they often have trouble comprehending speech in a noisy environment. Rather than raising your voice over a loud television programme or radio, remove the source of the noise.
How to Talk About Incontinence to Elderly Individuals
Approaching the subject of incontinence which is already an embarrassing topic may prove even more difficult when its our elderly relatives we’re talking to. It’s important that they don’t feel ashamed, or embarrassed to ask for help, and you open the conversation yourself if you feel they’re not fully managing the condition on their own.
They may also need to explore different types of products before they find a product that works for them. Don’t expect the first product they try to be the perfect solution and consider that they may need 2 or 3 different styles of product for day and night.
Talk to them about a daily cleansing routine, and changing incontinence pads frequently. Make use of the wetness indicators on each product, changing them when four fingers’ width is unblurred at either end of the indicator.
Most people use 4 or 5 pads over a 24- hour period. It’s important that urine or faeces is not sat against the skin. If a product is becoming saturated within a couple of hours, they might need something more absorbent. Choose skin care products that are specifically designed for fragile, incontinent skin that are suitable for intimate cleansing.
Use the HARTMANN Direct product selector to help guide you in choosing a product for elderly relatives, or request a copy of the HARTMANN Direct brochure so you can talk through the different style of product with your relative to find a solution.
How to Get Help If You Are Struggling to Care for An Elderly Family Member Or Friend
Caring for an elderly family member can be stressful and overwhelming. Thankfully, you can acquire help from a wide variety of resources, with extra support available during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Contact the Royal Voluntary Service website for help from an NHS volunteer
- Access the Carers UK website to find more information about the support available
- Check out the NHS Choices website for local resources
- Get in touch with your local council to arrange for a carer’s assessment and to arrange practical help on a daily or weekly basis
- If you’re a young carer (24 or younger), you can get local and online support from the Carers Trust
- Turn2Us lists benefits and financial subsidies specifically for carers in financial need
In most cases, these additional resources will be offered free of charge. However, in some situations, you may need to pay for services. If you cannot afford these charges, you may be eligible for financial assistance and/or subsidies. You may also be eligible to apply for Carer’s Allowance and other benefits – speak with your local council.
Communicating With An Elderly Relative Or Friend Improves Everyone’s Experience
Everyone appreciates being spoken to with dignity and respect. By listening to your elderly family members and taking time and care to understand their needs, you will improve their quality of life, as well as your own experience.
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Citizen’s Advice (2019). Carers: help and support. [online] Citizensadvice.org.uk. Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/looking-after-people/carers-help-and-support/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2020].
E, T., White, G. and Houchins, J.C. (2006). Improving Communication With Older Patients: Tips From the Literature. Family Practice Management, [online] 13(8), p.73. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2006/0900/p73.html [Accessed 23 Nov. 2020].
Matthews-King, A. (2018). NHS medication errors contribute to as many as 22,000 deaths a year, major report shows. The Independent. [online] 23 Feb. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/nhs-medication-errors-deaths-prescription-drugs-jeremy-hunt-york-university-health-a8224226.html.
National Institute on Aging (2017). Tips for Improving Communication with Older Patients. [online] National Institute on Aging. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/tips-improving-communication-older-patients#:~:text=Good%20communication%20is%20an%20important [Accessed 22 Nov. 2020].
NHS University Hospital Birmingham (n.d.). Incontinence pads -Information for patients and carers. [online] Available at: https://www.uhb.nhs.uk/Downloads/pdf/PiIncontinencePads.pdf [Accessed 4 Dec. 2020].