Communicating with Older Adults

Communicating with Older Adults

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Abstract

Old age is often a challenging time for older adults and their caregivers. In many cases, older adults encounter stereotypes and prejudice that are a part of ageism. Despite the fact that older adults remain capable of managing some tasks on their own, they are often belittled and made to feel inadequate. In the case study, a daughter insists on speaking on behalf of her parent who is capable of doing so on their own. The paper explores recommendations on how to address such a situation.

Key words: Ageism, Communication, Recommendations

Older adults face a lot of challenges as they grow into their old age. These challenges include medical problems, cognitive decline, getting people to care for them, among others. Although old age comes with a lot of challenges, it is important that people learn the strategies and interventions necessary when dealing with older adults so that they continue to enjoy their lives despite any problems. Older adults need proper care and management when they require help, but not all of them do. They should be allowed to live as normally as possible when they still can. There are many stereotypes about old people such as they are all in cognitive decline, they cannot do anything for themselves and they need round the clock care. Although these may be true in many cases, every older adult is different, and they should be treated based on individual situations rather than generalizations.

Case Study

I chose case three for this assignment. The reason for this choice is that I have encountered the stereotypes in this case among so many people. Older adults are often judged as being incapable of communicating their needs, and they are usually belittled by those around them such as family and caregivers. I would like to learn how to better treat older adults especially those who are capable of communication without belittling them.

Intervention 1 and Rationale

The document on communicating with older adults offers valuable strategies on how to deal with older adults and address their concerns and situations. The first recommendation for the case study I chose is number eight, ask open-ended questions and genuinely listen (The Gerontological Society of America, 2012). The older adult in this case must feel inadequate and belittled due to the fact that their daughter insists on speaking for them. This is despite the fact that the older adult is perfectly capable of expressing themselves. Asking them questions is a way to show confidence in their communication, and helps them feel empowered and involved in decisions concerning their welfare. The rationale behind this strategy is that older adults may be reluctant to share information with a healthcare provider of they feel that the provider is disinterested and fails to ask for more information. Asking open-ended questions allows the older adult to open up and share useful information about their wellbeing.

Intervention 2 and Rationale

The second strategy in communicating with the older adult is to verify listener comprehension during the conversation (The Gerontological Society of America, 2012). This will be helpful in two ways. First, it shows the daughter that their parent is capable of understanding matters pertaining to their welfare when given the chance. Second, it gives the older adult the feeling that their opinion is valued, and the chance to ask any questions they may have. The rationale behind this strategy is seeking verification from the listener clarifies all the information and tailors the information to their situation. In this case, the teach-back technique works best. The healthcare provider explains the information to the patient, and the patient repeats this information as they understand it. This method ensures that the healthcare provider, the older adult and the daughter are all on the same page.

Individual Intervention

In dealing with the older adult and their daughter, I would begin by reassuring the daughter that she had done a good job in caring for her parent. An overwhelming majority of caregivers for older adults tends to be family members, especially adult children. These caregivers also go through a lot of stress in caring for the older adults. They may experience role-conflict, feelings of failure, embarrassment, and physical stress (Sardella et al., 2021). The tendency of the daughter to speak for their parent may show a lack of patience, which could be caused by stress. As a healthcare provider, I would try to reduce her stress by reassuring her that she has done her best. I would also make sure to practice shared decision-making between all the parties involved. Lawless et al. conducted a study on communicating with older adults and found that in many cases, healthcare providers fail to adhere to shared decision making plans (Lawless et al., 2021). To avoid this, I would discuss activities that the older adult should engage in such as exercise, diet, taking medication, and engaging with other people. When the patient feels that they are involved in making decisions regarding their welfare, they are more likely to be cooperative with their caregivers and healthcare providers.

Ageism

An article published on the Journal of Geriatrics and Palliative Care defines ageism as “negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes toward old age and how these are reflected in psychological and social problems” (Sierra-Ayala et al., 2017). Ageism can be seen in the case study. A common stereotype towards older adults is that they are incapable of the most basic of tasks such as expressing themselves. The daughter in this case did not trust her parent to speak for themselves despite the fact that they were capable of doing so.

Personal Perspective

The case study and recommendations opened my eyes to a lot of challenges that older people experience, and how most people are unaware of how these older adults must feel. For example, in the case study, it is unlikely that the daughter understood the negative impact of speaking on behalf of her capable parent. The recommendations provided in the booklet have been eye-opening, and teaches practical and compassionate ways to treat older adults with different challenges. I have learned the importance of respect, compassion and patience in dealing with older adults, which leads to better outcomes for everyone involved.

References

Lawless, M. T., Drioli-Phillips, P., Archibald, M. M., Ambagtsheer, R. C., & Kitson, A. L. (2021). Communicating with older adults with long-term conditions about self-management goals: A systematic review and thematic synthesis. Patient Education and Counseling.

Sardella, A., Lenzo, V., Alibrandi, A., Catalano, A., Corica, F., Quattropani, M. C., & Basile, G. (2021). A Clinical Bridge between Family Caregivers and Older Adults: The Contribution of Patients’ Frailty and Optimism on Caregiver Burden. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(7), 3406.

Sierra-Ayala, I., Gutierrez-Herrera, R., Riquelme-Heras, H., Gomez-Gomez, C., & Ordoñez-Azuara, Y. (2017). Ageism: Discrimination that Must Disappear. J Geriatrics Palliative Care, 5(1), 3.

The Gerontological Society of America. (2012). Communicating with older adults: an evidence-based review of what really works. Gerontological Society of America.