Effective communication lies at the core of every patient interaction. For RDs and interns in long-term care (LTC) facilities, there are some unique challenges to overcome when communicating with residents. During my time as a student-intern, I learned about these obstacles and saw the unique ways in which they can be overcome.
Factors that affect communication with long-term care residents:
Thankfully, each of these issues can be resolved with the following approaches:
While navigating communication barriers, it is vital that the RD or intern always does so while respecting the resident’s dignity and intelligence. Having a hearing, speech, or memory impairment does not mean a person is of lower intelligence. The RD or intern can show respect by always first assuming that a resident will understand them (and adapting accordingly if they don’t); always addressing the resident directly, until notified that the resident prefers to use a proxy or alternative means of communication; and speaking in a way that is simple, slow, and clear without being patronizing or demeaning.
The time leading up to my initial patient interactions created some anxiety for me. I was nervous about saying the wrong thing, not being able to understand someone or causing confusion or agitation for residents. I quickly found, however, that there was no need for this fear. When an RD or intern approaches each resident interaction with confidence and genuine respect, every barrier can be overcome.
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