Listen: The biggest complaint older patients have about their doctors is that the doctors do not listen. Feeling like their doctor is not paying attention to their concerns about their health can make them feel frustrated, unimportant, and ultimately, less likely to communicate well. Pay attention to what your patients are saying to you, and give them ample time to ask questions (and answer those questions thoroughly). Be especially careful to listen–with no distractions–for the first minute or so of your meeting. That will set the tone for the rest of the session.
Maintain eye contact: Sit face to face with your patients, and make frequent eye contact. By seeing you head-on, older patients are less likely to become distracted, and those that are hard-of-hearing will find you easier to understand, as they will be able to see your lips moving. Facial expressions can additionally help communicate information that your words cannot, and by looking at them, they will see that you are paying attention.
Be clear: Speak to elderly patients clearly, slowly, and loudly, especially those who are hard of hearing. Summarize any information you give them frequently. Older patients usually must receive a lot more information than younger patients, but their memories often are not quite as good. Lastly, do not use jargon. This really should be the case with any patients you have. Doctor-speak can be frustrating to people who are not doctors, and it can add to patients feeling that they are isolated from their physician. Use short, simple words, or even diagrams, to get your ideas across.
Write it down: If you must give complicated or particularly important instructions, write them down. Use clear handwriting or type a step-by-step list of what needs to happen. Write as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Allow extra time: You may have realized that taking these measures will make your appointment go slower than they usually do. Good. Plan to spend extra time with elderly patients, especially if you expect to have a lot of information to share with them. Older patients generally need to know more, but retain information less quickly, meaning that you will have to make up for that in time. Additionally, if you have the option, have your receptionist try to schedule elderly patients for morning slots. They are more likely to be awake then, and the office will be less busy, meaning you will be able to spend more time with them.