Recognising elderspeak and how to avoid its use with older people
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Recognising elderspeak and how to avoid its use with older people

Kevin McLaughlin Clinical Nurse Specialist, old age psychiatry, Psychiatry of Old Age, Sligo University Hospital, Sligo, Ireland

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand the concept of elderspeak and how it can occur when caring for older people

  • To recognise the impact that elderspeak can have on older people

  • To learn about methods you can use to reduce the likelihood of using elderspeak when communicating with older people

Despite the widely recognised importance of effective communication, negative forms of communication can arise between caregivers and patients, leading to barriers in developing healthy, respectful and fulfilling relationships. One such negative form of communication is a phenomenon known as elderspeak, which can be used by caregivers when talking to older people. Elderspeak includes slow speech, simple vocabulary, reduced grammatical complexity and repetition.

This article uses a concept analysis to provide caregivers with a ‘mental picture’ of elderspeak, as well as an awareness of how it can have a negative impact on older adults. Evidence has suggested that cognitively intact older adults find elderspeak patronising, frustrating and condescending; similarly, many researchers are investigating the link between elderspeak and resistive behaviours in dementia care settings. The article aims to assist caregivers to recognise elderspeak when it occurs and to understand the importance of minimising their use of this style of communication.

Mental Health Practice. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2020.e1472

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

McLaughlin K (2020) Recognising elderspeak and how to avoid its use with older people. Mental Health Practice. doi: 10.7748/mhp.2020.e1472

Accepted 1 April 2020

Published online: 16 July 2020

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