Medical services are not available in Connecticut. Visit the local Connecticut websites to view a list of services offered.

Elderspeak and How to Avoid It

Sweetie, let’s explain what elderspeak is so you understand it. I will define elderspeak, OK?

The National Institutes of Health definition is: “Elderspeak is an inappropriate simplified speech register that sounds like baby talk and is used with older adults, especially in health care settings.”

Are you using elderspeak when engaging in conversation with an older adult?

Examples of Elderspeak

Although well intentioned to be kind and comforting to someone who might not be feeling well or is confused in a new relationship or environment, elderspeak can be demeaning and offensive. It’s important to note that elders are not typically overheard speaking to one another in what could be called elderspeak, so it seems to be primarily done by people who are younger than the person they deem older and in need of this type of talk.

Characteristics and examples of elderspeak include the following:

  1. Using a singsong voice with altered pitch.
  2. Terms of affection such as “baby,” “sweetie,” “dear,” or “buddy.”
  3. Statements that sound like questions. Such as, “Let’s open your curtains?”
  4. Speaking with exaggerated slowness.
  5. Repeating or paraphrasing what has been said even when not asked to do so.

Elderspeak and Dignity

When caring for someone—whether a family member, friend, neighbor, or in the capacity of being a professional caregiver—it’s important that they are treated with dignity. This means that you are recognizing this person’s intrinsic value, regardless of their current abilities or well-being.

Words matter and can affect how someone feels not just about you and what you are seeing but how those words make them feel about themselves. As stated in this article, adult children do not become the parent of their parents when they require assistance and therefore they should not be infantilized through language or behavior.

When someone is spoken to in a demeaning way—even if meant well—it can degrade their spirits and lead to feeling sad about themselves.

How to Speak to Your Elders

The phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a good rule thumb for figuring out how to talk when around someone who is older than you or living with a change in abilities. Keep these suggestions in mind for speaking to elders:

  • Talk clearly in a normal tone of voice
  • Make eye contact so the person can pick up on any visual cues
  • Avoid shouting or yelling as this may come off as angry
  • A high-pitched voice might be harder to hear so try to speak at a low, normal pitch
  • Never be condescending

When you assume an attitude of compassion and exercise patience, the conversation will be natural and you will likely put them at ease.

For more tips on successful communication with seniors, read this Psychology Today article that has more ideas such as offering choices rather than giving orders routinely.

Homewatch CareGivers and Elderspeak

At Homewatch CareGivers, we believe in a person-centered approach to care that puts the individual at the center of their own wellness. This approach means that someone can say how they want to be spoken to and what care they prefer based on their unique preferences and history.

Contact Homewatch CareGivers today to set up a consultation for your care needs.

Related Posts