NOT ALL language barriers can be transcended with a translator.
Sometimes, you miss out on rapport building with a patient. I find much difficulty when I occasionally come across the elderly who do not speak English or are not capable of understanding neither my Malay or my minimal Mandarin (you won’t believe the number of dialects that exist in Singapore). Especially crucial when it comes to understanding their home environment and social setup.
My pocket-size communication cards were very helpful in my interaction with such patients. And it becomes a much easier two-way communication when I needed to obtain firsthand information from them.
It’s really simple to do! Firstly collect photos of what you want to include in the cards, and arrange them onto a 6×4″ template via Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop. Next, send it for printing and lamination. The bookshop auntie at my place was nice enough to help me trim the cards and rounded edges. Lastly punch some holes and secure with a ring binder. Tadaa! The laminated surface makes it easy for swiping with alcohol swabs after each patient contact. What’s best is that its handy size fits right into my coat pocket!
My stack of picture cards consists of visual analogue scales for assessing pain level, Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). It also includes photographs of home modifications and assistive equipment.
It works just as well with the hearing-impaired population, where photos aid in communication instead of relying solely on gestures or lip-reading.