Communication with Elders – New Online CE Course for OTs

By Laura More, MSW, LCSW and Edie Deane-Watson, MS, CCC, CCM

Communication with EldersCommunication with Elders is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course for Occupational Therapists (OTs) that provides an overview of aging changes that affect communication, dysfunctional communication habits to avoid, and strategies for appropriate communication with elders. Course #20-96 | 2015 | 26 pages | 15 posttest questions

The Administration on Aging (2011) projects that the number of people over the age of 65 will double by the year 2030, when elders will represent almost 20% of the population in the United States. The aging of America is due to a shift in mortality from acute diseases to chronic, degenerative illnesses. An elder today is more likely to die of a chronic cardiac condition, for example, than acute pneumonia. Two-thirds of elders have multiple chronic medical conditions (CDC, 2013). Many elders have complex communication needs as a result of cognitive, motor, or sensory barriers. These barriers must be understood in order to facilitate communication, especially in medical settings where communication is vital for treatment (Downey & Happ, 2013).

Effective, appropriate communication with elders is important for many reasons. For occupational therapists, communication is the foundation of service delivery. Communication is required for assessment of the person prior to treatment. Symptoms are, after all, subjective and must be reported by the person to the clinician. Effective communication also contributes to health literacy; the person’s understanding of her condition, treatment options, and the treatment plan to be followed. A person cannot comply with a treatment program unless the program is communicated clearly enough for the person to understand it. The more effective the communication, the more effective treatment will be – and the more cost effective. Communication also helps the clinician understand the whole person: the emotional, social, and financial realities that affect response to treatment and ability to comply. This is the basis for a therapeutic partnership that supports the person and his family (Lubinski, 2010).

Research shows that effective interpersonal communication has a significant impact on patient satisfaction in healthcare (Power, 2012). Wilner and Feinstein-Whittaker (2013) strongly state, “All medical professionals must speak with clarity, effectiveness, credibility, confidence, and compassion.” However, communication with elders includes not just the identified patient, but also often a caregiver. This may be a spouse or an adult child. Since elders are living longer, the adult child accompanying the elder may be an elder herself. A review of caregiver “companion” studies revealed that companions regularly attended medical appointments. Companions could be helpful by providing informational support but could also be challenging when dominating the appointment (Laidsaar-Powerll, 2013). It is important to be aware of the communication dynamic during three-way communication in order to assure the elder is heard and important issues are addressed.

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. You can print the test (download test from My Courses tab of your account after purchasing) and mark your answers on while reading the course document. Then submit online when ready to receive credit. Enroll now.



Professional Development Resources is an AOTA Approved Provider of continuing education (#3159). OT Content Focus – Domain of OT: Client Factors and Mental Function; OT Process: Intervention. This program is offered for 0.2 CEU’s. The assignment of AOTA CEU’s does not imply endorsement of specific course content, products, or clinical procedures by AOTA. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the Florida Board of OT Practice (#34). Participant successfully completed the required assessment component for this activity.