Cue cards to break down the resident/staff language barrier

In a staff meeting the other day, the social worker mentioned her new resident was having difficulty because he didn’t speak any English. It was arranged that the director of the Dietary Department would go up to act as translator.

“I know a Web site where you can get language cue cards with health-related words on them,” I told the team.

Following the meeting, the social worker and I went to the computer and pulled up the link to Eastern Health: Health-Related Language Cue Cards.

“What language do you need?” I asked her, looking at a list of over 60 languages ranging from Italian, Spanish, and German to Ukranian, Farsi, Swahili, and Japanese.


A few seconds later the pages printed out and were at the 4th floor nursing station within the hour.

Each sheet contained pictures of important social and medical issues, with the English and Punjabi words for them below. The selection included “husband,” “wife,” “sit down,” “shower chair,” “diabetes,” “pain,” and “hospital.” Nestled between “audiologist” and “psychiatrist” was the Punjabi word for “psychologist.”

For a list of all available language cue cards for healthcare, click here. Below is an example of a few Punjabi cue cards. Many more languages are provided.

Dr. Barbera is an author and a licensed psychologist consulting in long-term care facilities in the New York City area. She frequently lectures on subjects related to psychology, aging, and nursing homes. Dr. Barbera is available for private consulting with organizations, institutions, and individuals around eldercare issues. Visit her personal blog at

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