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Activity Directors - Active Listening and Communications with Residents - 7 "Active Listening" Tips - April 6th N.A.P.T. ActivityDirectorUniversity.org for National Board Certification

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Listening to Understand
Active Listening and Communications
Instead of thinking about what you want to say while the resident is talking, really listen during the exchange of conversation.  It is not uncommon to feel a need to be thinking ahead to formulating a response, particularly while multi-tasking.

Picture this --- Someone is speaking to you, expressing their thoughts very carefully for you to understand. In this scenario, you need to be mindful of behavior that presents signs of the individual struggling to communicate his/her needs. To fully understand the meaning behind the words, you must focus on the intent and seek purposeful understanding of its meaning. All this needs to be first and foremost during the interaction and your main focus during every conversational exchange with your resident.

The experts call this “active listening”, and there are a few different components:
  • Pay attention. When someone is talking to you, look at them. Notice their eye contact and body language. Take in their tone of voice as well as what they are actually saying. Really listen.
  • Listen with your body. Turn toward the person who is talking, lean in, and make them feel listened to because you really are listening. Make eye contact, smile, nod, and make leading noises (“Uh-huh”, “Really?”, “Go on”, etc.) when appropriate.
  • Don’t interrupt. The best way to make someone feel like they are not being heard is to interrupt or talk on top of them. Listen fully and wait until they are done to ask questions or add your thoughts.
  • Repeat what they said. Don’t just say what you were planning to say. Show that you have heard what they said by repeating back to them a summary of what you heard when appropriate before adding your own opinions.
  • Respond to what they said. Be honest and respectful in your responses, and remember to talk — and listen — in the ways that you would want to be talked or listened to.
Seven Quick Reference Active Listening Tips
Older people may have trouble following rapid-fire questioning or torrents of information. By speaking more slowly, you will give them time to process what is being asked or said. If you tend to speak quickly, especially if your accent is different from what your residents are used to hearing, try to slow down. This gives them time to take in and better understand what you are saying.

1. Allow extra time for older patients.
2. Minimize visual and auditory distractions.
3. Sit face to face with the patient.
4. Don't underestimate the power of eye contact.
5. Listen without interrupting the patient.
6. Speak slowly, clearly but not necessarily loudly.
7. Use short, simple words and sentences.
Be Careful About Language
Some words may have different meanings to older patients than to you or your peers. Words may also have different connotations based on cultural or ethnic background. For example, the word “dementia” may connote insanity, and the word “cancer” may be considered a death sentence.

Although you cannot anticipate every generational and cultural/ethnic difference in language use, being aware of the possibility may help you to communicate more clearly.
Communication Barriers due to Disabilities
Older adults can suffer from a variety of ailments that can disrupt their expressive and receptive communication.
  • Evaluate the older adult to ensure that the person is able to hear, see or understand you.
    For individuals with hearing issues, make sure that you are facing them when you speak. This is particularly important with current mask wearing restrictions. Our residents often were previously reliant on reading your lips to fill in the gaps that may be caused by hearing deficits. Make sure to speak in a clearly and articulate each syllable.
  • Enhance communications through body language.
    Be sure to partner your verbal communications with your residents by incorporating supportive body language. Actions can speak louder than words and your body sends volumes on that note. Speak in a calm tone and exercise good body posture so that your stance is inviting and open to enhance the message you wish to communicate.
  • Utilization of specialized equipment can be one of the many ways to get past these barriers.
    Some individuals may have hearing aids so be sure that they are being used. If hearing aids are not available, there are amplifiers that can be purchased and utilized as well.
  • For individuals who may not have the ability to speak, a communication board may be able to be utilized.
    Utilize communication boards, dry erase board or a note pad that can be written, large print if needed, to ensure accurate interpretation of the conversation. Images are particularly effective to communicate the intent of your message and has been reported to be effective with varied levels of cognitively compromised adults.
Have a topic request or question for Celeste? Send them over to celestechase@activitydirector.org
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April 6th  N.A.P.T. Nat'l Activity Professional Training for National Board Certification

Activity Directors Network was founded in 1996 on the idea that we could help create elderly care that dramatically improved the lives of those we all serve. We envision facilities that feel like homes and that celebrate our resident’s individuality and allows them to live with dignity, purpose and joy. We believe the exchange of education and wisdom between the most talented teachers and passionate students is the way to make an impact. Each and every single one of you are the revolution that is changing everything. Thanks for being a part of The Network.
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