Communication with Elderly in Healthcare

In senior residences and communities, enabling the elderly to stay in touch with their family and friends is vital to their overall health and well-being.

These days, most of us don't give seniors enough credit as to their ability to use social apps and mobile devices. But consider the joy and fun you can see seniors having in this viral video about grandparents using Skype. It may take some time for an elderly person to get up to speed on unified communications (UC) apps, but it can certainly be a fun journey.

Providing seniors a helping hand with the buttons and gestures to connect to their loved ones is a gift they will treasure throughout their sunset years.

Additionally, innovations in VoIP and unified communications technology enable the elderly to hear the voices of their friends, children and grandchildren and see them in high definition. They can use tablets and smartphones to bridge the distance between them and their loved ones.

Once senior residences and communities are outfitted with the right cabling and bandwidth, these systems can be quickly scaled to handle the added capacity of residents with wired or Wi-Fi network infrastructure. This is the case at Thrive Senior Living, a group of senior living communities in the southern United States.

Enhancing Quality of Life with Communication

Isolated seniors who don't maintain consistent communication with family and friends tend to, eventually, experience an inability to carry on a conversation. In fact, the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that swamped, on-the-go nursing home aides have limited time to carry on conversations, amounting to approximately 10 percent of a resident's day.

The report also highlights how tone of voice and body language can significantly impact how the elderly receive certain messages and how it impacts their mood. Many senior living communities implement communications skill training to ensure aides:

  • Speak with residents, not at them
  • Use a tone with seniors that doesn't come across as condescending (e.g., with a higher pitch, overly simplistic words or high volume, often known as elderspeak)
  • Adopt a more engaging tone; ask closed-ended questions; and employ an even, natural speech cadence

Indeed, these behaviors are all beneficial for a senior's self-confidence and well-being.

With that in mind, families of seniors living in senior residences and living communities should communicate with their loved ones like this as well. VoIP phone systems and video conferencing functionality can help in this regard.

Clearing Up Concerns with Communication Signals

Seniors community aides or loved ones can identify cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease through symptoms like:

  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of motivation or apathy
  • Confusion
  • Suspicion and paranoia
  • Aimlessly wandering

Since seniors may resist opening up to aides and minimize conversations, their family should be encouraged to hone in on these patterns of behavior. Nursing home staff can schedule time with family and plan other activities when seniors are most alert and in good spirits.

Providing Sage Advice for Communicating with the Elderly

The nursing school at the University of California-Berkeley offers some excellent etiquette for communicating with seniors, which we can all apply to speak to customers and colleagues online or on the phone.

  • Simplify: Use conversational language and leave out the jargon.
  • Offer Assurances: Ensure seniors feel valued and are active participants in conversation.
  • Give information: Use communication styles that the elderly prefer, like using props or pictures.
  • Ease into the conversation: At the beginning of the conversation, use friendly small talk before diving into deeper topics.
  • Acknowledge them: Reinforce to seniors they're being heard and that you understand them.
  • Discover: Ask questions to make sure seniors truly understand what you are telling them.
  • Value them: Don't use a patronizing tone like you're talking to a child; be respectful and speak as equals.
  • Individualize: Tailor the conversation to the person's cultural beliefs and be sensitive of any disabilities or sensitivities.
  • Communicate: Don't give orders; instead, provide suggestions and advice, as well as listen to feedback.
  • Empathize: Understand that seniors were once youthful, vibrant just like you. Thus, speak to them like you would want to be spoken to.

Empowering Seniors is a Morale Booster

In senior communities, nursing homes and other similar facilities, communicating effectively with the elderly is a learned skill. Isolation can be demoralizing, so finding ways to get residents and patients engaged is critical.

Employing telecommunication tools like VoIP and UC can ensure costs are predictable and systems meet strict HIPAA and regulatory requirements. To that end, making it easier for residents to connect with their loved ones can serve as a great morale booster. Contact center applications can help concierge the families of elderly residents and facilitate quick, efficient access at any time of day or night.

Call centers rely on their technology to empower them to be as productive as possible. With 8x8's Virtual Contact Center, you get world-class technology and everything your call center needs in one place. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out our online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.

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