Nurse wearing mask

Communication: Behind the Mask

Angie SzumlinskiHealth

Non-verbal communication often assists in forming a bond with those who may speak a different language, are unable to speak, have hearing loss, etc. Think about it, when you smile at someone, chances are they will smile back. Our facial expressions also express sadness, anxiety, pain or fear. During this time of uncertainty, it is even more important that we utilize unspoken language or other visual ways to communicate with those impacted by the pandemic. It is even more important when working with people living with dementia as the smile on your face may be the one gesture that gets that resident up and moving. That said, what happens when the resident can no longer see your smile as you are wearing a medical facemask? Remember, our non-verbal communication extends beyond the mouth; residents can read emotion from the sound, tone and speed of your voice, your body language and posture. Consider following these steps to assist in connecting with someone who is non-verbal;

  1. Start slow, knock on the door, call their name and ask to enter.
  2. Get in front of the resident at their level, point to your name badge and introduce yourself.
  3. Ask for permission before entering their personal space; especially if you have a mask or other PPE on as this can be alarming to residents.
  4. Consider adjusting the way you provide care based on the resident’s response;
  5. Determine how you are going to communicate with them, verbally, with cue cards etc.
  6. For residents with hearing loss, consider purchasing face masks with a clear shield so that the resident can read your lips and see your facial expressions.

We have a lot on our plates today, our lives have become more complex than ever so imagine not having the capacity to understand what is going on and why! Be sensitive to your residents living with dementia, it will take more time to do simple tasks but at the end of the day, you and your residents will benefit! Take care, be well!