A lot of friction can happen when a family must watch their parents age. The old phrase, “age gracefully” doesn’t always seem so graceful, especially when it refers to those we love most.
Communication skills are vital to any relationship! Last week we looked at tips for discussing the aging process with your elderly parents. Here are even more great tips for caregivers and family members to have a meaningful conversation with aging parents.
Listen More Than You Talk
A basic human need is to feel heard. When you are having difficult conversations about sensitive matters, be sure to LISTEN to what your elderly loved one is saying. Don’t try to fill in pregnant pauses with more talking. Sometimes saying nothing and just letting information sink in is the best route to take. Remember, it’s a process. It will likely take several conversations.
Realize That Their Opinions May Differ from Yours
There’s no bond quite like the family bond. Even so, nobody agrees about all things all the time. Treat your elders the way you would want to be treated—with lots of respect. If you get stuck on a certain topic, try to compromise and come up with a solution everyone can agree on. Just like any family dynamic, there must be give and take for healthy communication.
It’s often difficult or embarrassing for aging adults to admit they don’t hear well. It automatically lumps them in the category of “old people” in their minds. Be sure to speak clearly, distinctly, and use short sentences that are easily understood. If they can’t hear you well, they may feel frustrated. Be willing to speak a little louder without shouting. Often, just repeating the sentence is all that’s needed. If your parents suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, you may need to phrase things in more than one way to be sure they comprehend what you are saying.
Don’t Be Patronizing
If you do find yourself repeating things, don’t sigh loudly and act like you are speaking to a child. Never come across with a condescending tone! If this happens, it will most surely shut down the conversation and leave your loved ones feeling angry.
Choose the Right Time and Place
Never try to discuss meaningful and important topics in an atmosphere that isn’t peaceful. If there is a TV on, turn it off. If loud music is playing, ask if you can turn it down. It’s tough to talk when outside noise competes with you are saying.
It’s also helpful to be seated where you can see each other. Don’t put the senior at the end of a table or where they cannot keep eye contact with you. Often, hard of hearing adults have learned to lip read, so they will need to see you.
Pick Your Battles
There are lots of issues that face aging adults. It can be overwhelming for them to know their lives are changing. They may fear losing dignity, privacy, respect or even their independence.
Think about the most critical issues and focus only on those. It might be getting around the house safely, being lonely, managing medication properly, etc. Allow your aging parent to be part of the solution! Discussing too many issues can be humiliating and frustrating for aging parents.
Laugh Every Chance You Get
This may be the best tip of all! Look for opportunities to share laughter together and keep the mood light. Try not to take yourself too seriously and let laughter be the best medicine. And finally, never laugh at your parents, but rather, laugh with them!
For more tips and information on the topic of discussing the aging process, please contact us today!
Meet the Author! Lisa Hmiel, Owner of Home Helpers of Jamestown
An industry expert with more than 30 years of successful experience in Health Care Services, Lisa Hmiel has a proven ability to foster relationships by making lives easier while providing care for those in need. Lisa grew up helping the residents of her parents' nursing home, where she first began to recognize the demand of affordable home caregiving. Lisa also has personal experience caring for a loved one after her son's car accident, where she became a full-time caregiver for him. In 2013 Lisa took her desire to help an opened Home Helpers of Jamestown. Lisa is deeply involved in everything from hiring caregivers to interviewing families, making sure everyone finds their perfect match! Learn more about Lisa and her team here!