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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to speak to seniors

Today I am hesitant to enter one patient room. I have to fight this each week. It's not that she is elderly, most of my long term care patients are. And most talk with ease. I love talking to my elderly clients. 

What I do not enjoy is sometimes seeing in facilities how our elders are treated as objects. Things to be dealt with rather than people with rich histories and good ideas and feelings and stories to tell. 

When I tell people what I do, my current 2 main populations. I often get interesting reactions vary from disgust and shock for working with abusers, and sympathy and boredom with the elders. I am questioned on the difficulty of what to talk to seniors about or if they can hear me. All real questions. But they are also real people. Who are lonely and desperately want to talk. Sometimes it is just to complain about problems. But who doesn't. Talking with them is easier than you might think. 

Want some ideas??

1. Ask them anything about their past. Families. Relationships. School. Careers. And never assume they had kids or did or didn't work

2. Let me back up. Want to open the door a little. Compliment something you see genuinely. Their shirt. A picture. The weather. Gets you off on a good foot

3.  Favorites! Music. Tv shows. Sports or teams. Vacation. Holidays. Memories. 

4. Most have pictures or objects or memorabilia around them. Ask them about them or who brought it or significance of those things

5. Their goals and dreams. Even in your 80s or 90s we have goals. It might be for their family. Or helping a neighbor. Or physical therapy to get out of bed on their own. It gives purpose. 

6. Bring your own pictures. Share about your life. Kids. Job. Family. 
( this is the only population I do much self disclosure with.  As a therapist self disclosure is generally frowned upon. It must be beneficial to the client. And to some of these clients I am their ONLY connection to the outside world. Therefore I see it as often beneficial)

7. Ask open ended questions and be patient on the answer. There may be memory issues. But also our previous generations were a storytelling time. It's how time was passed without tv phones or the Internet at our beckon call. 

And when all else fails. Which is kind of where I am at with the aforementioned client. Just be real about how you are feeling. Ask them what you can do for them or what they need. Ask them to bring topics of discussion. Even if you are asking every week. This client is difficult. And is impossible to talk to and is resistant. But desperately wants me there and do I am trying. Not giving up on her. Cause I get the sense that everyone else has. (FYI. I got her to talk some by asking where she was during major historical events. 911. Kennedy. MLK)

You want to enrich your and someone else's life. Go visit a nursing home. It's not so scary. 

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