One of the challenges in Nursing Home Ministry is working with the
residents that have mental disabilities caused by stroke, Alzheimer's or even
those in a coma. Even though one may not be able to respond, they are often
able to understand much of what we say. When we communicate we are not only
speaking words, we are also transmitting our spirit. Our love, patience and
even anger can often times impact people more then our words. Below is a list
of tips that I have found to be effective for good communication in the nursing
Body language is very important. Try to position yourself at eye level with a cheerful countenance. If the resident is upset or confused, try to respond to the emotion that you see. Let them see in your eyes that you really care, but do not baby them.
Do not assume that a resident has certain disabilities such as impaired hearing or loss of comprehension skills. Approach them as if there are no disabilities and make adjustments as you see the need.
Once they are able to trust you, they love a gentle hug or touch on the shoulder. They often times will like to hold your hand.
If a resident begins to talk about things unrelated to the conversation, don't assume they don't know what's going on. It is often quite effective to walk for a while in their reality to help lead them to our reality.
Allow the person time to comprehend what you are saying. If need be, rephrase your sentence or question to help them understand. Do not allow them to struggle too long for words. Help them or politely excuse them from having to answer your questions. In the early stages of the disability, they are usually very sensitive, so avoid making them feel inadequate.
Try to reduce background noises as they tend to distract and cause confusion.
Do not hold conversations with others in close proximity to the resident as if he or she were not there. Difficulties in understanding all that is being said could make them think that you are talking about them.
Do not try to change religious beliefs by pushing Scripture on them. It is better to read the Scripture that pertains to the need at the moment & let the LORD reveal His truth. It is helpful to use a Bible translation that is easily understood such as NIV. or NLT., unless the person is familiar and prefers the traditional KJV.
Never underestimate the power of the spoken word of God. Speak the word with gentleness and in faith, believing that the word of God can cut through earthly limitations.
Many good messages and prayers are in the old hymns. Many residents that cannot talk can still sing.
The LORD knows the residents and their needs. We must pray and take steps of faith as the Holy Spirit guides us to bless them. Above all, TREAT THEM THE WAY YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED. JAMES 2:8