Date: November 23, 2023

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna


When spending time with your elderly loved one, do you ever feel like you are struggling to understand one another? Or maybe you find it difficult to engage them in conversation at all?

There are many challenges when communicating with an elderly patient. Some elderly communication barriers are obvious, and some of them can be more difficult to overcome. By becoming aware of those barriers, it will be easier to deal with them and engage in effective communication with elderly patients.

Barriers to Elderly Communication

Hearing loss. It is a common misconception that all elderly adults struggle with hearing loss. Many people don’t even try to communicate with seniors because they assume they can’t hear them anyway. While some seniors begin to lose their hearing, hearing aids are available to help. When communicating with a senior with hearing loss, make sure you are both focused and looking at each other. This will help your loved one read facial expressions as well as understand what you are saying more clearly.

Speech impairments. Some medical conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s, or other neurological conditions can cause elderly communication problems. In this case, it is very important to remember that just because your loved one cannot form words clearly does not mean they cannot listen, think, or feel. It may take extra effort to communicate in this instance, but it is still possible.

Language and Comprehension. If you are a parent, think about the last time you knew they were speaking English, but you still couldn’t understand a thing your teenager was saying. Even if you are not a parent, you have likely engaged in conversation with a young person (or seen one on TV) and wondered what all those strange words mean. Imagine how much more difficult communication must be for someone another generation or two older. Additionally, you may be communicating using medical terminology that your loved one does not understand. Being mindful of these comprehension issues can help when communicating.

Cognitive challenges. Having a conversation with a person suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia can be especially hard. They may have trouble understanding you, or forget the conversation halfway through and start over. You may assume since they will forget the conversation anyway, why even have it? In this case, it is important to remember that while the conversation is happening, it is real and important for your loved one. Don’t make assumptions about what they will or won’t remember. Do your best to stay in the moment.

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Overcoming Senior Communication Barriers

When you are communicating with an older patient, patience and understanding are key. You may need to slow down, speak more clearly, or repeat yourself. You may need to express yourself in a few different ways to be understood. You may need to write down words or use other communication tools to get your point across. Regular, gentle conversation helps keep their skills sharp. The best things you can do are stay calm, keep it simple, and remember that communicating with your loved one is worth it.

If communication issues persist or worsen, consult with a healthcare professional for tailored advice and possible treatments. Your understanding and support can greatly aid in overcoming these barriers and improve their quality of life.

Date: November 23, 2023

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna


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*The Griswold service model varies depending on which state the office is in. In some states, our service is solely to refer thoroughly screened professional caregivers. In other states, we employ and supervise the caregivers. In every state, we're 100% focused on quality services and responsiveness to your needs. For each office, you'll see its service model and learn how we can best help you and your family with your home care needs. (See item 7 and item 19 of our current FDD for additional information.)