Dexcomm Blog

Communicating With Seniors

June 28, 2012

Essential Ingredients for Communicating with the Elderly Over the Phone

Recent technology such as voicemail options, call waiting, and multiple lines can be challenging for elderly callers.  In addition, many seniors deal with hearing loss, vision loss and dementia.  Therefore, delivering and receiving critical information by telephone can be especially difficult for all involved.

Luckily, our training expert here at Dexcomm has put together a few tips that can help overcome these communication barriers for both your elderly patients and phone operators.

Know your patients

Know your patients’ habits, disabilities, and barriers so that you can better help them and service their needs.  If you have a shift change or a new phone operator, update them on your patients’ habits.

Example:  Mrs. Green usually has trouble hearing but never has trouble talking.  Today she calls in and seems to be struggling with her speech.

This might be a good indicator that something is wrong with Mrs. Green.  Ask her questions like how she is feeling today and if she knows her location.  She might not always be aware of her condition.  This could be a matter of life and death for some patients.

Speak clearly

It is important to speak clearly but not yell.  Use simpler words and phrases to help decrease the communication barrier.  Rephrase your statement if the elderly patient seems confused.

Take your time

Taking your time with the elderly caller is very important.  If you are rushed, it will only add to the frustration with sending and receiving the information over the phone.  Patience is a must for phone operators.

Probe

Knowing when and how to ask certain questions in order to get valuable information from your patient is important to his/her health and safety.  Patients don’t always freely offer information unless asked.

Essential ingredients for communicating with seniors over the phone

Click below for a list of Probing Questions that might be helpful when communicating with seniors

Patience
  • Listen carefully and empathetically
  • Do not rush or come to conclusions
  • Never finish the patient's sentence
  • Reduce distraction, keep track of what is being said
  • Never interrupt
Careful Speech
  • Speak slowly
  • Enunciate clearly
  • Pay special attention to vocal quality
Special Probing Skills
  • Questions may need to be asked, rephrased, or asked again
  • Reason for call may need to be paraphrased and reconfirmed
  • Caller may need to be queried whether they have lingering questions or concerns before ending call
Respect
  • Respect
  • Use titles such as Mr., Mrs., and Dr. are particularly important
  • Avoid patronizing language or tone

Working with elderly patients can prove to be challenging, but also very rewarding if you help protect their health and ensure their safety.  Be patient and use your instincts to break down the communication barriers.  Remember that one day, we might all be the senior on the other end of the line.  Click here to learn more about Dexcomm (www.dexcomm.com).


Dexcomm is a Louisiana-based corporation that provides answering services to businesses and service agencies across the United States. We have been open since 1954, employ a staff of roughly 50 people, and our average client retention rate is 10+ years.

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