Communication

We used to have a patient with a “trach.” The new case manager was annoyed that our patient refused to use the pen and paper he gave her to “talk” to him. He didn’t realize our patient was illiterate.

A new nursing home resident didn’t appear to speak English. A staff gave him a communication board filled with some simple and “universal” images. The resident pressed every button on the board and giggled. He had dementia and didn’t know what the board was for.

Human communication is one way to enhance understanding. But without sufficient understanding of the individual and a mutual desire to “connect,” even the fanciest “tool” will not be able to facilitate communication.

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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