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  • Tina Walker M.C.S.P.

Have we lost the art of listening?

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

One of the most important aspects of elder care is actively listening to what the senior is saying. This seems so obvious, but so often I have found myself in situations where staff are talking over their patients. We can forget that it is important to stop before beginning new processes and inform the senior of what it is we are planning so they can proceed with consent and understanding. This can be because of understaffing, working a tight schedule, or poor training but taking the time to facilitate clear dialogue makes a huge difference.It is the responsibility of all of us involved to meet these challenges and make sure that care and communication is to each individual need.

Recently I was visiting a wonderful friend (96) at a rehabilitation facility after she had taken a fall. At one point staff came into the room and wanted to move her from the bed to the chair. She had no explanation of the plan and did not have her hearing aids in. The result was confusion and both parties getting slightly fractious. Once someone took the time to kneel and get face to face with her and listen to her concerns and explain clearly what the aim was, the transfer was easy and she was much happier.

Attentive listening and clear communication can help to avoid areas of conflict, confusion and increased anxiety.

It is always helpful to make eye contact with the person you are talking to, and depending on the person and the situation, the addition of a reassuring touch can be very helpful.

When I was visiting a client, I witnessed the head of nursing coming to visit to see how she was progressing. The patient mentioned that these daily check in visits- although just a few minutes long-meant a great deal to her. It was these visits that helped her feel secure in the new environment of a rehabilitation facility.On hearing this, the nurse took the patient's hand, thrilled to hear that, and told her it was a priority to make the call each day. The combination of touch and eye contact helped enormously regarding the patient feeling seen, heard and cared for.

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less." — Diogenes

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