Avoiding Elder Speak

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The practice of elder speak is common, yet most people don’t even realize when they are doing it. To get to the nitty gritty of what elder speak is, you can easily compare it to speaking to senior citizens as if they are children. You know what this means – you’re talking to them in a fashion that is not normal, or even close to normal. We’ve seen this occur countless times in comedies and so forth, and of course, we laugh, but in the real world, this type of behavior is considered quite disrespectful. Don’t even try to kid yourself and believe that it goes unnoticed by geriatric patients, as they are often more astute than they are given credit for, and you never know when that moment of clarity will come to them. So, let’s talk about what this is exactly, and why it can fuel the fires when communicating with your charges.

Specific examples of elder speak include:

  • Using a simplistic vocabulary and grammar
  • Shortening your sentences as if they cannot understand the concept
  • Slowing down your speech
  • Elevating pitch or tone
  • Overuse of terms of endearment
  • Collective pronouns – “Are we ready for our dinner?”
  • Tagging Questions – “You’re ready for a bath now?”

Certainly, there are situations that are the exception, and if you have a patient that is hard of hearing, suffering from dementia, or other situations, using elder speak to some extent may be necessary. These instances call for you to use your better judgment on a case-by-case basis. Be forewarned, that if your charge is not one of these special cases, they are very likely to resist any and all assistance from you. After all, who likes to be approached in such a condescending manner when they can fully hear and understand what you are saying? More specifics about this topic can be explored in our article concerning the Emotional IQ of a CNA.

Taking an Alternative Approach

In lieu of the elder speak approach with your senior patients, even when they are suffer from dementia or other problems, there are more effective approaches you can utilize. Psychological studies of elderly patients and their interactions with caregivers exhibit that things roll much smoother when a more traditional method of communication is used. Specialists in the field recommend that caregivers:

  • Speak in a normal tone
  • Use normal words
  • Attempt reorientation
  • Use distractions
  • Provide positive feedback
  • Use Memory Aids