Talking to Your Elderly Parents

Preparing for conversations can go a long way

Enjoying the company
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Every adult child thinks they know best how to talk with their elderly parents. But this is not always true, as there are approaches for speaking with the elderly that require training for best outcomes. These approaches are mostly based in humanistic psychology that believes in treating an elder with dignity and respect, and reminds that this stage of life has value. We know that elders are more cooperative with their care when they are included and spoken to in a way that values their input.

As an elder ages, the conversations their children need to have with them become more difficult. These tips can help ease any potential tension of the situation:

Meet Them Where They Are At

Meet elders at eye level when you are speaking with them versus standing above or to the side of them. They can see and hear you better this way, and it helps "equal the playing field."

Slow Down

Speak slowly and loudly. Be willing to repeat things as many times as is needed without huffing and puffing. This is a lesson in patience and word crafting, as you need to speak in a way they can understand.

Speak Their Language

Avoid pronouns (i.e. he, she). Some seniors may not know what day it is, nevermind what pronouns are assigned to what individuals. Use names and relate them as the elder does (“the guy from next door”).

Notice What They Share

Avoid asking them questions beyond their memory level. If they suffer from short-term memory loss, don’t ask them what happened yesterday.

If they suffer from long-term memory loss, do not ask them questions about when they were young. They will share with you what they want you to know.

Follow Their Lead

Ask specific, short questions. Some may not be able to follow two- to three-part questions or tangents. Be OK with pauses in conversation, especially if it appears the senior needs time to process between statements.

Don’t interrupt them or change subjects quickly.

Schedule Visits Ahead of Time

Schedule visits to elders ahead of time, and ask them to write the visits down in their datebook or calendar. Call them an hour before to remind them. Drop-in visitors can mess up their daily routines and cause agitation.

Write it Down

Write things down for elders in a place they will remember. Whether it is your phone number, something you want them to remember, the date of your next visit, etc.

Answer Their Calls

Answer the phone when an elder calls you. It can take a lot for them to take this step, depending on their situation. Call them to check in too, as they will often be shy about asking for help.

Final Thoughts

How you say it is more important than what you say when it comes to elders. If you rub them the wrong way, they may not tell you anything, making it more difficult to help them.

Because family dynamics are always in play, it is important to utilize these types of disarming communication techniques to neutralize what are often heated talks.

It is easy to become agitated by repeating things many times, or being accused of things you did not do because of an elder’s memory loss. But, this tells the elder they are too hard to deal with, prompting them to get more upset and eventually just stop talking. We need them to keep talking as long as possible to understand their needs. If we speak with elders in a calm and respectful manner, they will continue to trust us and allow us to help them.

It’s better to allow the elder to guide the conversation with our help. Sometimes this means coming back another day rather than taking on too much in one conversation. After all, they are our parents who have given us so much. We owe it to them to slow down and follow their lead.

This article was provided by Kindly Care, an online service that allows you to find an in-home care provider near you.

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