Command Use and Compliance in Staff Communication with elderly Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities

Document Type


Publication Date



Verbal communication between nursing assistants and individuals with dementia can be challenging, particularly during hands-on caregiving tasks. Although there are many aspects of verbal communication that can affect the quality of an interaction, one potentially important communication variable is the types of commands issued by nursing assistants when they need a resident to complete a task. The purpose of this study was to examine the kinds of commands used by nursing care staff when they interact with patients with dementia during activities of daily living. Commands were categorized according to their feasibility/specificity as well as form. An additional goal of this study was to measure compliance and noncompliance rates associated with the various categories of commands. Results indicate that alpha commands (clear, concise, and feasible) account for higher compliance and less noncompliance compared with beta commands (ambiguous, interrupted, and not feasible). In addition, commands that are stated directly, that clarify a previous command, and that are repeated exactly produce better compliance. It is concluded that training nursing staff to change the types of commands they provide during caregiving tasks may reduce distress experienced by both staff and residents.



Publication Title

Behavior Therapy