Tips for Sharing Unpleasant News With Older Adults

A newspaper with the headline Bad News

The world feels uncertain, so we talked with our staff members to get their best advice on sharing bad news with our Daughters of Sarah Community for Seniors residents. You can always call your loved one’s social worker for more specific assistance.

Sharing bad news with senior adults can be a sensitive and challenging task, as they may be more vulnerable to emotional stress and may have specific communication needs.

Here are some tips to help you share bad news with senior adults in a considerate and empathetic manner:

  • Choose the Right Environment: Find a quiet, comfortable, private place to converse. Eliminate distractions and ensure adequate lighting to make it easier for them to see your facial expressions.
  • Be Prepared: Before the conversation, gather all the relevant information and be clear about the facts. Prepare yourself emotionally, as well, to remain calm and composed during the conversation.
  • Use Clear and Simple Language: Avoid jargon or complex terminology. Use plain and straightforward language to convey the information. Be concise and to the point.
  • Encourage Questions: Let them know you are available to answer any questions they might have. Be patient and willing to provide additional information or clarification.
  • Maintain Eye Contact: Establish and maintain eye contact to convey sincerity and empathy. Non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, can be as important as your words.
  • Offer Support: Let them know that they are not alone. Share your availability to provide emotional support, and if appropriate, suggest the involvement of family members, friends, or support groups.
  • Be Empathetic and Compassionate: Show understanding and empathy by acknowledging their feelings. Offer reassurance that you care and are there to support them through the difficult situation.
  • Give Them Time: Senior adults may need more time to process information and emotions. Be patient and allow them the space to react and respond in their own time.
  • Follow Up with Them: Continue to check in on them after the initial conversation to see how they are coping and if they have any additional questions or concerns. Offer ongoing support as needed.

Everyone is unique, and how they respond to bad news will vary. Tailor your approach to the specific needs and preferences of the senior adult with whom you are communicating, and always prioritize their emotional well-being and dignity.