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HGNI: Geriatric Mental Health Training Series - "Getting the Facts" Effective Communication With Older Adults

HGNI: Geriatric Mental Health Training Series - "Getting the Facts" Effective Communication With Older Adults

University of Iowa College of Nursing
Hartford Geriatric Nursing Initiative (HGNI)
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Long-term care personnel may overlook various barriers to effective communication with older adults and consequently misinterpret verbal and behavioral messages. General principles of the communication process are reviewed with an emphasis placed on problems created by sensory changes, staff attitudes and beliefs, and various types of disease that may affect the residents. Strategies to promote more effective communication are offered.

This is the second module in the Geriatric Mental Health Training Series (GMHTS), a six-part training program designed to be taught as a one-hour educational program for care providers in long-term care settings. The six core topics address common problems faced in LTC settings. Each is designed to help staff be more knowledgeable about the causes of "problem behaviors" and about techniques to manage those troubling behaviors. The care providers' own feelings and behaviors in response to problem behaviors is examined, including the role of values and beliefs, personal needs, and stress in the work place.  All modules can be found at:

Educational objectives: 


  1. Explain how communication contributes to person-centered care.
  2. Give examples of nonverbal communication, verbal communication, and the context of communication.
  3. Explain how attitudes and/or beliefs can affect the communication process.
  4. Describe how changes in hearing and vision may affect an older person’s ability to communicate.
  5. Identify 2 common diseases or disabilities that can interfere with an older person’s ability to communicate.
  6. List 5 things that caregivers can do to improve communication with elders
Additional information/Special implementation requirements or guidelines: 

The training materials were designed to be flexible, and strongly encouraged individual trainers to adapt the modules to meet their unique needs and audiences. Throughout the training materials, trainers are urged to personalize the materials by using real-life examples from their facility, try out suggested interventions with residents prior to training staff, and use as many meaningful examples as possible to help staff apply the program concepts in their day-to-day practice.

The Geriatric Mental Health Training Series (GMHTS) was developed and evaluated between 1989 and 1994 with funds from the Division of Nursing, Bureau of Health Professions, Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Kathleen C. Buckwalter, PhD, RN, FAAN, Principal Investigator and current Co-Director of the Iowa HCGNE and Marianne Smith, MS, ARNP, pre-doctoral scholar of the Iowa HCGNE. This highly acclaimed training program is provided in a revised and updated format under the leadership of the HCGNE. Training materials are adapted for broad dissemination and use, and provided at no cost to users.

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Estimated time to complete: 
1 hour 30 minutes
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Suggested Citation:
HGNI: Geriatric Mental Health Training Series - "Getting the Facts" Effective Communication With Older Adults. POGOe - Portal of Geriatrics Online Education; 2011 Available from: