4 Tips PSWs Can Use When Communicating with Older Patients

personal support worker careers

As Canada’s population continues to grow older, personal support workers are becoming a vital component of our country’s healthcare system. In order to provide the best life possible for the elderly population, personal support workers assist patients with housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and getting around town. This assistance gives older patients a sense of freedom, which they otherwise may not experience.

If you’re planning to enroll in PSW courses, or have already begun your training, read on to find out how you can adjust your communication habits to provide the best care for elderly patients.

PSWs Should Speak Loudly, Clearly and Slowly

Approximately one in three people over the age of 65 suffers from some form of hearing loss. Personal support workers must understand that difficulty with hearing can be frustrating, embarrassing and even dangerous for a patient, which is why clear, loud communication is so crucial.

One thing that PSWs can do to make communication easier for patients suffering from hearing loss is speak face-to-face. This helps the sound of your voice reach them easier, and allows them to read your lips to understand more clearly. It can also be helpful to cut out any background noise, like traffic from an open window, or the television in the background. If you and your patient take part in an outdoor activity, try to steer clear of noisy areas so they can hear you speak easier.

PSWs Present Information Visually

Professionals in personal support worker careers will often discuss a patient’s medication and health routines with him or her. It’s crucial that the patient hears and understands this information, which is why PSWs often try to find ways of presenting the information visually. One example is keeping a written daily log for the patient so he or she knows which medications to take, and when. PSWs might also stick memos on a refrigerator or whiteboard to record any other important information.

PSWs Use Active Listening

How often do you engage in a conversation, only to walk away barely remembering anything that was said? When this happens, it’s likely that you weren’t actively listening. PSW courses teach students active listening so that they can help provide more fulfilling companionship to patients, and understand their concerns or requests clearly.

Active listening means not only fully engaging in what your patient is saying, but also helping them complete their thoughts, or get their point across. If you ask a patient what they did that day and they say that they made breakfast and watched television, you might try to encourage more conversation by asking “Oh really, what television show were you watching?” This type of active dialogue helps patients feel like what they are saying matters.

PSWs Give Easy, Simple Choices

As humans get older, our brains slow down, and it can be more difficult to process multiple thoughts at once. Personal support workers have to be conscious of how they choose their words—specifically how they ask questions.

Rather than asking open-ended questions like “what would you like to drink” narrow it down for the patient with simple choices like “would you like water or juice?” If the patient doesn’t want either, then they can let you know what they would prefer. Easing the number of choices an elderly patient has to make can take away some unnecessary mind strain and prevent confusion.

Are you interested in learning more by enrolling at a PSW college? Check out our 26 week program for more information or to speak with an advisor.