Have you ever heard of elderspeak? This is talking to older adults in a “babytalk” way. Even though many caregivers are very conscientious about their tone when they talk to their clients, sometimes elderspeak happens anyway. This can be challenging when you care for an older adult who is hard of hearing, but it’s important to keep some practices in mind when you communicate with your clients.
According to Changing Aging.org, there are a few different things that make up elderspeak. Some of them are:
- Speaking slowly or loudly
- Using a sing-song voice
- Making statements that sounds like a question
- Shortening or simplifying words or sentences
- Using pet names like sweetheart, princess or honey
- Asking questions that assume role loss, or powerlessness like “What did you used to do?”
- Answering questions for them
At SYNERGY HomeCare, we have a lot of respect for the people in our service who are in their elder years. These people have a lot of experience and wisdom to share, and we enjoy hearing their stories and helping them have the best well being possible. We can even help them create new memories!
Here’s the good news: there are many ways to get past the challenges of talking with seniors and communicate in positive, intelligent ways.
Here are some great things to remember when talking with your clients:
- Start off your interactions on the right foot. If you are meeting a new client, ask them or their family caregivers how they like to be addressed.
- Avoid using slang. This can be perceived as casual to many clients.
- Low and Slow. Sometimes hearing-impaired clients have a hard time understanding higher-pitched voices. If you are having trouble with this, try lowering your tone, speaking slower and annunciating your words a little bit more.
- Speak like you are being interviewed. In a job interview, people are generally more respectful and formal than in other settings. Try this in your caregiving role as well.
- Lose the Background Noise. If necessary, turn down the TV or radio. If you are in a room full of people, try moving to a quieter setting for a moment.
- Read Body Language. Leaning closer, cupping your ear and squinting are all signs that someone wants to focus on listening. If you see your client doing this, try leaning closer and using the “low and slow” technique.
- Watch Your Face. Keep cool, calm and collected when speaking with your client. Even if you are frustrated, don’t let it show.