Elderspeak and Resistance to Care

Posted by Dr. El - August 17, 2011 - Communication, Customer service, Medication issues, Psychology Research Translated, Resident care - 10 Comments

“Come on now, Vera, honey,” the nurse said in a high-pitched, sing-song voice, “be a good girl and take this nice candy.”

Vera swung her arm and knocked the tiny cups of pills to the floor.


In their 2009 study, Elderspeak Commnunication: Impact on Dementia Care, Kristine N. Williams, RN, PhD, and her colleagues report that resistiveness to care increases nursing home costs by 30%.   They examined the way nursing staff speak to residents and its impact on the level of cooperation of residents with dementia.  They found that residents became significantly more resistant to care when nursing staff used elements of elderspeak such as:

  • simplistic vocabulary or grammar
  • shortened sentences
  • slowed speech
  • elevated pitch or tone
  • inappropriately intimate terms of endearment
  • collective pronouns (“Are we ready for our bath?”)
  • tag questions (“You want to get up now, don’t you?”)
They found that residents with dementia were more cooperative when spoken to in normal adult talk, and suggest the following research-based strategies in working with residents with dementia:
  • normal talk
  • reorientation
  • distraction
  • positive feedback
  • memory aids