5 Tips to Improve Communication with Older Patients

Good communication with older patients is essential to the healing process. Elderly patients are more likely to stick with treatment and have better outcomes when they are satisfied with their care. This article will walk you through 5 tips for a successful healthcare communication campaign for elderly patients.

Communication challenges with the elderly

Hearing loss, reduced vision, weakened facial muscles, digestive problems, and inability to write are some of the most common issues in communication with older patients. 

The health issues that can badly affect normal communication range from simple aging issues, such as hearing loss, to neural problems that affect the brain and muscles. Below are some of the more severe conditions that can interfere with communication:

  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Parkinson’s disease (PD)
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Depending on the degree of the condition, specific technological tools, therapy, and general communication measures customized to the older patient’s abilities can help improve communication.

5 tips for a better communication campaign for older patients

#1 Be careful of the emotions conveyed through your language

Some words may convey a different meaning to older patients than to you or your colleagues. Words may have different meanings depending on patients’ cultural or ethnic origin. 

For example, “dementia” may imply craziness, whereas “cancer” may imply death. Although it is impossible to predict every generational and ethnic difference in language use, being conscious of the possibility can help your message deliver more clearly.

#2 Avoid medical jargon & complex sentences

Try not to presume that patients understand medical terms or are familiar with their disease. 

Although some terms may appear extremely common: CT scans, stress tests, and so on, some older patients may be unaware of what each test includes. 

One of the best ways to ensure effective communication with the elderly in healthcare is to simplify information. Avoid using medical jargon or technical words that are difficult to understand for the ordinary individual. Instead, use words that your patients will find “familiar and comfortable.”  

You can demonstrate the training through visual aids such as videos, photos, illustrations, etc.

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#3 Deliver your messages through the right kind of social media

Some elderly patients have difficulty reading, and others require visual aids such as videos, charts, and photographs. 

In the above tip, we have discussed the elder communication formula – simple languages with emotions. However, most media only deliver a portion of this formula: simple language or emotions. That is why you need a strategic media plan that includes knowing when to use media to provide knowledge and when to use it to convey emotions.

However, most media only deliver a portion of this formula: simple language or emotions. That is why you need a strategic media plan that includes knowing when to use media to provide knowledge and when to use it to convey emotions.

For a more effective media strategy, use media that conveys both simple language and emotions, such as animation. 

The video below shows how we provide vestibular migraine information to elderly patients in a light-hearted manner. We apply our knowledge of vestibular migraine through real-life scenarios with illustrations. The human characters and various emotions transform the video into a dynamic experience rather than a patient education video.

#4 Make a comfortable environment for elderly patients

Demand your staff to ensure patients have a comfortable seat in the reception area and assist them with filling out forms as needed.

Be aware that older patients may require assistance getting into and out of exam rooms, offices, 

restrooms, and the reception area. If there is a long wait in the exam room, make sure your staff checks on patients frequently.

#5 Get family members involved

According to research, family involvement in elderly patients’ health care can help improve patients’  motivation to keep going with their treatment plan. Without external assistance, it’s easy for an elderly patient to fall into a cycle of depression, especially if they have multiple chronic diseases. A trusted family member can help ensure that elderly patients eat well, exercise, and take their medications as prescribed.

Here are some suggestions for educating family members about the elder communication campaign:

  • Educate family members on motivating the elderly while they are undergoing treatment.
  • Assist family members in creating a safe environment for the elderly to absorb healthcare knowledge.
  • Assist patients in teaching elders about healthcare and complying with treatment.

Final thought

The communication campaign and communication with older patients are the most challenging aspects of healthcare. Put down your title as a healthcare communication manager, and imagine yourself as an older person first. It’s an excellent place to start a successful campaign as you put yourself in the shoes of older patients.

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