Senior Homecare in Southwest Florida can be complicated by communication challenges.
Southwest Florida has many patients seeking senior homecare. Communication challenges are a common issue. This has many families requesting clear English-speaking caregivers.
Factors effecting communication for senior homecare providers in Southwest Florida.
Southwest Florida could easily be considered the melting pot of the United States. At least the eastern half of the US. This is especially true of our senior population. We have residents from all over, but especially Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Wisconsin. This Business Observer article notes that Florida leads the nation in the number of new residents who’ve moved from other states.
As you are probably aware, many of these seniors are seasonal residents, spending the winters in Florida while it’s cold and dreary up north. These seasonal residents have lovingly been termed “snowbirds” based on their migration to the sunshine state during the winter.
The population of Florida, for this and other reasons, is unique and unlike any other state. There are populations outside of the states mentioned above that largely influence our area. Southwest Florida is home to many Hispanic, Haitian, Jamaican, Filipino, and even German residents.
This population of foreign individuals is comprised of first and second-generation residents who are non-native English speakers. Many of which have native accents and languages that are unique to their area. This Florida Weekly article notes that more than a quarter of our local residents speak a language other than English.
This diversity is celebrated and embraced in many instances, but there are situations where language barriers can present a challenge. This is especially true in senior home care.
Effective and clear communication is a major concern for families seeking senior homecare.
When a patient or their family has to seek out senior homecare, they are usually doing so based on a need or deficit for their family member. Communication for a senior may be affected in a number of ways that make it difficult to understand or communicate effectively.
The following are common situations or conditions that affect a seniors ability to effectively communicate:
- Hearing Loss
- Memory Impairment such as dementia or Alzheimers
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Vision loss
Reccommendations for seniors who have communication challenges.
When receiving in-home care (and to effectively communicate in general) it is important to identify ways to help facilitate communication. Families and caregivers may want to consider supporting communication challenges in the following ways:
- Know the patient’s communication strengths and weaknesses.
- This can help direct others in the best ways to address and properly communicate with your senior. It can also help guide a home care worker in how best to communicate with your loved one.
- Make sure sensory aids are available and used.
- eyeglasses, hearing aids, communication devices, memory aids. These can all be helpful for a home care worker to effectively communicate with the individual they are assisting.
- Take extra time for communication.
- It is easy to become frustrated when you are unable to communicate effectively. Allow extra time during interactions to be sure your message is understood without rushing or feeling frustrated.
- Make sure the environment is communication-friendly.
- Noisy restaurants or loud public settings are not effective environments to communicate. Work with your caregiver in a setting that is quiet and well lit. Furniture arranged for face-to-face interactions also helps.
- Speak slowly and simplify your sentences.
- This can allow time to process information but also hear and understand what is being communicated.
- Supplement verbal descriptions with pictures and writing.
- There are conditions where this can be especially helpful. In these settings, a smaller dry erase board can be extremely useful.
Families may be tempted to request a native english speaking in-home caregiver.
When families are seeking senior homecare in Southwest Florida one common request is for a caregiver who “speaks clear English” sometimes these requests are phrased as a “native English speaker”.
When considering communication issues some seniors have who are receiving home care, requests for a caregiver who speaks clear English can be appreciated and understood. When making these requests, what some fail to realize, is that the population of Southwest Florida is unlike the population where many of these seniors seeking care call home.
States like Ohio, Michigan, or Connecticut, may have an abundance of native English speakers. This is what the patient and their families are used to and expect. That simply is not the case in Southwest Florida. This is especially true when considering the population of home care workers who serve this area.
Making requests for native English-speaking caregivers can severely limit the pool of excellent caregivers available to a senior seeking home care.
Seek the best caregiver, regardless of their background, or native language.
Yes, the home care workers in southwest Florida are from all walks of life, and from all areas. However, when families request “native English speaking” individuals they are severely limiting their options in-home care.
There are excellent in-home caregivers, who represent many backgrounds, languages, and cultures. Instead of limiting themselves, families seeking in-home care are encouraged to seek the best caregiver regardless of their background.
Overcoming challenges non-native English speaking caregivers face.
Many consider English a very difficult language to learn. Regional dialects and accents, nonsensical phrases, and other nuances can be difficult to integrate into daily communication. Many of the suggestions listed above for seniors with communication difficulties also are true for those who are non-native English speakers, to help them communicate effectively.
The following are suggestions for non-native English-speaking caregivers to effectively communicate with their patients.
- Maintain eye contact and smile.
- When you make eye contact it not only lets your patient know you are speaking to them but it helps direct your voice. In addition to speech body movements also help communicate. Smiling helps your client know what you are communicating is polite and not a threat. A smile goes a long way. It will help your client learn to like, appreciate, and trust you as a caregiver.
- Speak slowly and clearly in simple phrases:
- When communicating with your client, be sure to pronounce clearly what you are saying. It helps to do this slowly allowing your client to see the movement of your mouth. Limit multiple requests or commands together and ask simple questions or issue simple requests one at a time.
- Practice makes perfect:
- Practice your spoken English. You should try to have conversations in English at home and whenever possible (even if it is hard) There are groups that will help and online resources like youtube that can help with this.
- Practice hearing English: News or online resources are available to help with this. DO not simply say yes when you don’t understand. Work to understand and learn what is being communicated. If you are having trouble let the person know.
- Write it down:
- English is hard, your spoken English doesn’t have to be perfect. If you are having trouble, ask Abby Services or your patient to write down what they need or what their expectations are. That way if you don’t understand something you can seek clarification. With written communication and expectation you can also work to be sure your patient’s needs are met.
- Be Honest:
- Let your client know that you are trying, and working to become a better English speaker. Ask them to be patient and apologize. Although it can be frustrating, don’t get upset. With practice, patience, and experience anyone can become a great English speaker.
Free resources to help non-native caregivers communicate effectively.
There are a number of free resources available to help caregivers communicate effectively who are non-native English speakers.
- Google translate
- This free app can be used for a number of languages. It recognizes spoken phrases and words but these can also be typed as needed.
- Online training
- There certainly are paid courses however youtube has many free options for all language types.
- This free app helps individuals learn and practice a number of different languages. Lessons are broken up into short 1-3 minute segments so you can learn and practice whenever is convenient.
- Local in-person classes, practice, and training.
- Lee County Schools offers a low-cost ESOL (English for Speakers Of Other Languages) course that is for adults wanting to learn to speak, read, and write the English language. Many areas have similar courses.
- Lee County also has literacy resources such as
- English Cafe where individuals can go to practice conversational English.
- Free online instructor-led courses for ESL (English as a Second Language)
- Links to local resources such as the Gulf Coast Literacy Association.
For families seeking senior home care, and caregivers providing in-home care, it is important to recognize the real challenges effective communication can present, and how to overcome these challenges. Particularly considering the unique population of Southwest Florida.
If you would like to discuss your specific situation and homecare needs feel free to contact Abby Services at 239-590-0861 to see how we can help you. We are specialists in finding the right caregiver for your elderly parent.