COVID-19 Wearing a Mask and Maintaining Good Communication

The ABC of communicating with older, frail or dementia patients - 3 Min read


The ABC of communicating with older, frail or dementia patients - 3 Min read

Our carers wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as a mask, gloves, visor and apron. This means that both the carer and customer can rest assured that they are protected from contracting Covid-19. 

But how does wearing a mask affect communication with an elderly person living with a cognitive impairment such as dementia? We recognise that the usual method of communication through speech matched with facial expressions. They may also not be able to hear clearly and feel confused or unsure. 

Non-verbal communication can be an effective way to communicate with someone who has dementia. Often their ability to interpret and use body language is retained longer than the ability to communicate verbally.

Our carers are trained to communicate effectively at all times and especially whilst wearing a face mask.  By being attentive to the individual needs of their customers, they successfully maintain a open rapport


Recently two doctors, Dr Mathias Schlögl MD, MPH and Dr Christopher A. Jones MD, published an ABC Guide to remind staff how to have positive interactions with older patients.  Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust made this into a handy poster. See image further below. 

  1. Attend Mindfully – prepare for the conversation and how you will support them. Reflect on how you normally communicate and the many asymmetries in communication with older patients so you are aware of the gestures and cues you normally rely on. Practice how, when wearing PPE you can communicate more clearly.
  2. Behave Calmly – patients will feel more at ease and familiar with you if they feel they are being respected. Make sure to:
    a. Approach from the front
    b. Maintaining their personal space, drop down to their eye level
    c. Give them time to acclimatise to you, show them your badge
    d. Give them your full attention, try not to interrupt them and project a calm attitude
  3. Communicate Clearly – find a quiet place and make sure they have any hearing aids or glasses they normally use. Communicate slowly using short sentences and gestures. Make sure they can hear you (raise your voice). Remember they cannot see your face clearly so express emotions rather than just smiling for example. Also, use of pictures or communication charts could be helpful.


"Maintaining Our Humanity Through the Mask: Mindful Communication During COVID-19" by Mathias Schlögl MD, MPH and Christopher A. Jones MD, MBA. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, Letter to the Editor, 13 April 2020.

Leicestershire Partnership NHS trust has produced a poster for staff based on the article above:

To have a chat about this News article or your care needs, please contact Bluebird Care Market Harborough and Oadby on 0116 271 8222 or email Our friendly office team are on hand to help.