Communication between you and your PSW is always important, but when you’re both wearing a mask, it becomes increasingly difficult for everyone to understand each other. Many older adults have problems with their hearing, and with your PSW’s mouth covered by a mask, this can increase the muffling of their voice and the decrease how loud they are speaking.

Wearing a mask also blocks a lot of facial cues that can help you feel connected to your PSW, like smiling. That’s why it’s important that during this time, we all increase our frequency of communicating, to ensure that care is delivered comfortably and effectively.

Below, we provide some advice, suggestions, and tips for how to communicate with your PSW while wearing a mask.

Ask to see your PSW’s name badge. This way you can see their face and what they look like. With a mask covering each person’s face, it can be hard for both PSWs and clients to recognize each other. You can also show your PSW a photo of you, if they’ve never met you previously.

Consider writing down some simple concepts. If you can read and write, it can be helpful to write down simple concepts that relate to the tasks your PSW completes for you. Your family member might even be able to help you put together some flash cards that your PSW can use with you during their visits. Things like:

  • Can I help you take a bath?
  • Are you thirsty?
  • Do you want to take a nap?

Then, you can give these flash cards to your PSW and they can select the card that best fits each situation that might be causing confusion.

Use simple language and simple gestures. Short simple explanations are always better than longer ones. You may have to try a few different words or gestures sometimes to get your message across. “I would like a sip of water” and “I would like to drink some water?” You can try holding up your hand to your mouth to pretend you’re drinking a glass of water.

You can try a thumbs up or thumbs down for “yes” and “no” questions as well, or pointing to objects as you refer to them.