Personally, I enjoy coming up with ways to bridge gaps in communication. I never assume patients cannot hear me, unless they have been officially diagnosed as hearing impaired. I talk to them the way I would talk to hearing patients. I tell them what's going on at the nursing home and other news. Even when their eyes are closed, but I know they are awake, I tell them who else is in the room and say something positive about them to those present, so patients can feel included in the conversations.
I check their assignment forms and talk to their caregivers to find out what their backgrounds and interests are. This gives me more sources for topic ideas. If patients are able to leave the room, I take them on walks or wheelchair rides. I read to them, play music I think they will enjoy, touch them to reinforce my presence; I feed them, play games, sing, play the radio, and watch television with them, regularly making comments and always analyzing their body language to see if I'm making connections.
When I do a good job of this, I see signs that we are making progress. There may be smiles, alertness, something in their eyes that tells me our communication gaps are getting smaller, that we are forging relationships enhancing our lives. That's when the beauty of hospice volunteering sweeps me up like a great piece of music.