How to Communicate with an Elderly Parent

How to Communicate with an Elderly Parent

Keeping in touch with elderly parents and ensuring that they are doing well requires communication. You may be concerned about your parent’s or parents’ health, living arrangements, or ability to perform daily tasks as they grow older. These are difficult topics to broach, but communicating regularly and compassionately can make them a lot easier to handle.

Method 1 General Conversation

1. Maintain contact on a regular basis. Don’t be shy; your parent probably enjoys talking to you. If you’re far away, stop by for weekly visits, call on a regular basis, or use a video chat platform.

If your parent or parents are hesitant to use technology, ask a neighbour to assist them in setting up their phone or computer.

2. Inquire about their well-being. You should not assume that you know how your parent feels, even if they are sick or in poor health. To make them feel seen and heard, check in with a simple “how are you?”

If you’re not sure where to start a conversation, this is a great place to start.

3. Request that they tell you a story. Many elderly people enjoy reminiscing about their youthful activities. To learn about your parent’s childhood or young adult years, ask them to tell you about it. You might learn something you didn’t know before.

“What was it like when you were a kid?” or “How old were you when you had me?” are examples of questions to ask.

It’s fine if you hear a couple of stories again. Simply listen as if you’ve never heard it before.

4. Discuss their own parents with them. Parents, including yours, have a huge influence on our lives. Inquire about their childhood and whether or not their parents or guardians were strict.

“How late were you allowed to stay out when you were a teenager?” is a good example.

“Was Grandma strict with you when you were a kid?” or “Was Grandma strict with you when you were a kid?”

Method 2 Offering Help

1. Instead of assuming that they require assistance, ask if they do. It’s all too easy to walk into a room and assume you know exactly what your parent requires, but that’s not always the case. Before swooping in to take over, make sure you ask your parent if they need assistance with anything.

You could say something along the lines of, “The lightbulb in the kitchen is out, which I noticed. Do you want me to take its place?”

Alternatively, “That box appears to be quite substantial. Do you want me to lift it for you?”

2. Instead of placing orders, make suggestions. Even if your parent seeks advice, they are unlikely to appreciate being bossed around. Instead of using harsh language, make gentle suggestions or ask questions.

“You should work on your diet,” instead of “You should work on your diet.” “I could send you some of my favourite recipes!” try saying.

Instead of saying, “You really need to exercise more,” say, “You really need to exercise more.” Say something like, “Would you like me to send you some home workout videos?”

3. Speak to your parent in a mature manner. They may become enraged or defensive if you speak down to them or sound condescending. Maintain a positive tone and speak to them as if they were anyone else.

Instead of saying, “Oh, you’re so cute!” try something like, “You look really nice today, Mom.”

“Would you like me to take over?” instead of “Are you having trouble sweeping the floor?”

Method 3 Approaching Tough Topics

1. Talk in a calm, stress-free environment. If you’re rushed or stressed, you’re unlikely to have the patience to discuss a sensitive subject. Choose a time when you and your parent are both calm, relaxed, and ready to have a discussion.

While it may be easy to talk to your parents during the holidays, many people find them stressful.

2. Make a list of any concerns you may have. Avoiding the issue can lead to confusion. Instead, state your concerns and what you’d like to do about them in plain, direct language.

Something along the lines of, “I’m concerned about your pension fund. I’d like you to meet with a financial advisor to determine how much money you have and how you can make better use of it.”

3. To avoid blaming them, use “I” language. Your parent will become defensive and angry if you say things like “you did this wrong” or “you’re being ridiculous.” Instead, turn your attention to yourself and talk about how you’re feeling. “I’m concerned about your financial situation,” for example.

“I believe you should make it a top priority to see a doctor as soon as possible.”

“Today, I can assist you with your exercise.”

4. Give them a few options to give them some autonomy. Your parent is no exception to the rule that no one likes to be told what to do. You can give them a few choices so that they have some control without taking on too much responsibility.

Say something like, “Would you rather go to the doctor on Tuesday or Friday?” if your parent needs to see a doctor.

“Would you rather I clean the basement or do the laundry first?” you can say if you need to help them with chores around the house.

5. Pay attention to what your parents are saying. A conversation is a two-way street, and your parent may have some useful information to share. Even if it becomes aggravating, take the time to listen to what they have to say and any concerns they may have.

Make an effort to listen without passing judgement. It will make your parent feel more comfortable discussing difficult topics with you.

Before you respond, try paraphrasing what your parent just said in your own words to show that you’re paying attention.

6. Come up with a solution as a group. Even if you already have a plan in mind, you should consider your parents’ suggestions if they have any. So that you don’t get into a fight, come up with a resolution that will satisfy both of you.

If you believe your parent should stop driving, for example, offer to teach them how to use Uber or Lyft.

Offer to connect your parent with an estate lawyer so they can get expert advice if they don’t have a will yet.

7. To avoid becoming frustrated, practise patience and empathy. It’s difficult to have difficult conversations with your parents, especially if they become angry or defensive. Keep in mind that ageing can be frightening, and losing independence is likely to be difficult for your parent.

If you find yourself becoming overly emotional, take a break and continue the conversation later.

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