Certified Spanish Translator and Interpreter  

The Interpretator

Interpreting for older adults

Posted by rpospina on November 25, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Many times while I am interpreting for older adults, I find myself wondering how strictly should I follow the protocol or stick to my usual norms when doing so may turn into another communication barrier. Here are a few tips that I've gathered to enhance the quality of our interpreting services for older adults:


  • Make sure you have the person's attention before you begin; you can confirm this by making direct eye contact or based on their response when you address them.
  • Start with a very clear pre-session; explain your role and if you have mandatory scripts to follow, try to state them slowly or rephrase them using very plain terms.
  • Confirm that they can hear you; politely ask if they can hear and understand you and make adjustments if needed.
  • Have an adequate position; even though on-site interpreters should position themselves in a way that encourages direct communication between the provider and the LEP, when it comes to older adults interpreters should consider if they should position themselves closer to them, directly in front or whichever way is more convenient for the LEP.
  • If speaking in first person is confusing the LEP, consider switching to third person; follow the intervention protocol and explain the situation to the provider, then continue the rest of the session in the third person only when addressing the LEP.
  • Maintain eye contact; older adults can have difficulties hearing and rely on eye contact to receive information.
  • Interpret words and facial expressions as well; focus on the provider's expressions when asking a question or warning about something serious and make sure to use the appropriate expression.
  • Watch your speech and keep your volume reasonable; unless required because of a hearing impairment, speak slowly and clearly and allow a few seconds between sentences to give them time to process the information.
  • Remember that you can intervene when needed; because of the challenges and vulnerability of this age group, be even more mindful of your role as patient advocate as per the Code of Ethics for Medical Interpreters. If you notice that the LEP seems confused by the terminology or explanations, use your professional judgment to intervene and suggest paraphrasing or request for permission to ask the LEP specific questions to pinpoint their concern.
  • Be respectful. Be understanding. Be patient; address them as the adult that they are and don't patronize them.


 Source this article:  The skills of communication in aged care


Categories: Interpreting, How to's, Tips

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