Improving Nursing Home Communication: An Intervention to Reduce Elderspeak

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Gerontologist


Purpose: Opportunities for social interaction are lacking within today's nursing homes and staff frequently communicate messages of dependence, incompetence, and control to residents. This study evaluated a brief educational program designed to increase staff awareness of intergenerational speech modifications such as elderspeak and strategies to enhance communication. Design and Methods: A communication-training program was provided to Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs; n = 20) in five nursing homes. Audio recordings of staff interacting with residents before and after training were transcribed, coded, and compared on features of elderspeak. Results: After the training, CNAs reduced their use of elderspeak including terms of endearment, inappropriate collective pronouns, and shortened sentence length. In addition, the emotional tone of staff speech with residents was rated as less controlling and more respectful after the training while caring qualities were maintained. Speech rate did not change significantly. Implications: Teaching CNAs to reduce elderspeak holds promise as an approach to improving the social environment in nursing homes.

Published Article/Book Citation

The Gerontologist, 43:2 (2003) pp.242-247.

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