Chapter 4: Family Dynamics – Working with Seniors

Chapter Learning Activities

Learning Activity 6: Communicating with Older Adults

Directions: Watch the video Communicating with Older Adults, then answer the questions.


Gerontological Society of America. (2018, October 19). Communicating with older adults [Video]. YouTube.

Adapted Script

Which one of these adults is 65 years old? Older adults are living longer, and many are leading and living healthy lifestyles. Too often, healthcare professionals see only the age of the patient and not the patient’s unique situation. If we make assumptions based on stereotypes and talk down to older patients instead of listening carefully and engaging compassionately, we miss important signs. This breakdown in communication can lead to misdiagnosis, improper treatment, medication mistakes, distrust, and patient dissatisfaction. As healthcare providers, it is important to build relationships with patients through mutual trust and understanding to produce positive, effective interactions and assessments. Avoid speech that older adults might interpret as patronizing . Ask open-ended questions and genuinely listen. If a computer is used during visits with older patients, consider switching to a model that facilitates collaborative use. Engage in shared decision making. The normal aging process can hinder communication between older adults and healthcare professionals. Focusing on clear communication techniques significantly increases the likelihood of a successful patient visit. It is important to build relationships with patients, and you get what you give. Monitor and control your non-verbal behaviour. Include older adults in the conversation even if their companion is in the room. Express understanding and compassion to help older patients manage fear and uncertainty related to the aging process and chronic diseases. Use visual aids such as pictures and diagrams to help clarify and reinforce the comprehension of key points. Healthcare providers are increasingly likely to experience communication challenges. Recognizing situations and focusing on how to convey vital information will be the keys to positively communication. Minimize background noise, verify listener comprehension, break away from stereotypes, and understand that chronological age is not biological age.

Comprehension Questions

Learning Activity 7: Communicating with Empathy

Directions: Watch the video Validation, communication through empathy, then complete the reflective task assignment that follows.


Tedx Talks. (2015, June 3). Validation, communication through empathy | Naomi Fell | TEDxAmsterdamWomen [Video]. YouTube.

Reflective Task

Write a 600- to 800-word reflection. Use double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font, and APA (7th edition) formatting. Answer the following questions:

  1. What was the main idea of the talk?
  2. What are the key points and why?
  3. What themes about client needs were discussed?
  4. How can you incorporate these ideas into your settlement practice?
Reflective Task Rubric
Criteria 5–4 3–4 1–2 0
Main idea/Key points/Themes/ Application in practice Learner demonstrates a thorough understanding of the content.

The answer is supported by experience and/or draws upon information or concepts covered in the unit.

Insightful connections are made relating to the topic and applied into practice.

Learner demonstrates some understanding of the content relating to the questions.

Personal or professional experience is shared and relates to the topics/questions.

Ideas are complete.

Learner does not demonstrate an understanding of the course content as it relates to the questions.

Some connections to the resource and personal or professional experiences may be shared, but may not fully relate to the topics covered.



Learner does not respond to most questions or the response does not relate to the content in the resource.

The learner does not demonstrate an understanding of the content related to the questions.


(APA formatting, pagination, spelling, and grammar)

Message is clearly communicated.

All sentences are well written with correct spelling and grammar.

APA formatting is used efficiently and effectively.

Message is fairly clearly communicated.

Most sentences are well written with few spelling or grammar errors.

APA formatting is mostly correct.

Message is not clearly communicated.

Writing is challenging to understand, and as a result, the message is lost.

There are significant writing challenges that make understanding the message challenging.

Learning Activity 8: Cross-Cultural Intercultural Communication in Settlement Situations

Directions: Read the situations and answer the questions that follow. Use what you have learned about communicating with seniors. Consider the video in Activity 2. Hand in your responses to the instructor.

This activity can also be done in pair groups or as a large group discussion.

Exercise 1:  Waiting for an Appointment

Rakhi: You are an older immigrant waiting for assistance at a settlement office. You are not very steady on your feet because of an injury, and you need to use a walking stick. The office is quite busy with a lot of foot traffic, and you have been waiting for an appointment that should have started 10 minutes ago.

Donald: You are the settlement practitioner. It is a busy time of day, and there are a lot of people in the waiting area. You are running 10 minutes behind schedule. You can see that several people are waiting, including an older person.


  1. How do you think Rakhi is feeling in the waiting area?
  2. How do you handle this situation?
  3. How would you evaluate client need?
  4. What should you say or not say to build trust?
  5. How could you start a conversation based on empathy with this client?

Answers may vary.

Exercise 2: The Hospital

Elza: You are an older immigrant at the hospital. You are waiting to see a doctor. You have a lot of pain in your joints. Your daughter dropped you off and had to go to work. You have to take the bus to get home.

Doctor: You are a doctor at Westhills Hospital. A few people are waiting. You are short-staffed because one of the nurses on your unit is sick.

Interpreter: You are asked to provide information about Elza to the doctor. This includes the reason for the visit and personal information. You are tired. It is well past lunchtime, and you have not had your lunch break yet. The older person is distracted by the noise and cannot hear the questions well.


  1. How do you think Elza is feeling in the waiting area?
  2. How do you handle this situation?
  3. How would you evaluate client need?
  4. What should you say or not say in order to build trust?
  5. How could you start a conversation based on empathy with this client?

Answers may vary.

Learning Activity 9: Communication Accommodation Theory in Action

Directions: Watch the video Communication Accommodation Theory and complete the matching task that follows.

MAFERBENITES. (2018, February 18). Communication accommodation theory [Video]. YouTube.

Learning Activity 10: Matching – Convergence or Divergence in Communication Accommodation Theory

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