Sometimes it becomes difficult to communicate easily with an aging parent or senior due to the senior's hearing loss, diminished eyesight, and inability to write as clearly as they once did. As a Bay Area home care agency serving Menlo Park, Walnut Creek, and other communities around San Francisco, we know the importance of communicating effectively with those who are aging. To make it easier, we offer the following suggestions.
First, be compassionate and patient. It's hard to be patient when you want to get your point across quickly, but put yourself in your loved one's shoes and consider how you would feel if you had a difficult time hearing or processing thoughts as you grow older. Always try to remain calm and have empathy.
Don't assume; instead, form your sentences as a question. Sometimes we have to make decisions for seniors, or at least help them make them. Instead of telling your aging mother you're going to help her get ready for bed, put it in the form of a question so the senior still feels in control. For instance, you could say "I think it's time for you to turn in for the night, don't you agree?"
Try not to talk to an aging loved one in a way that sounds like you're giving orders. Seniors want to feel like adults, even when their physical ability and mental capacity begin to decline. Instead of telling a senior what's for lunch or dinner, ask. For example you could say "Would you like tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch?" This helps a senior feel in control and respected, rather than being told he/she is going to have a tuna salad sandwich for lunch.
When engaging in general conversation, maintain eye contact and speak clearly. This can be difficult for a younger generation who's used to doing everything (talking, texting) at a lightning speed pace. Don't try to do something else while having a conversation with an aging parent, speak directly to him or her, and listen carefully. Really pay attention and show you're interested in what the senior has to say. Again, patience is key.
When it comes to values or religious/political views, it's best not to argue or try to "win" in the conversation. Seniors have been through a lot over the many years of their lifetimes, and it isn't a good idea to make your loved one become agitated or overexcited. It's best not to argue about these topics, and doing so won't change anything.
Communicating with a senior takes patience, but showing you're truly interested and focused on a loved one can make him/her feel more important, and even improve your relationship. Keep conversations on topic and brief, watch for non-verbal signs of communication, even repeat key points in important conversations to help your loved one remember what you were talking about.
Care Indeed provides a wide range of in home care services for Bay Area seniors and their families. For all of your caregiver needs, trust our professionals for compassionate, skilled care.
Home care is derived from the belief that older adults should be able to age at home with the level of care they need to be safe and comfortable.