How to Better Communicate With Your Elderly Parents

How to Better Communicate With Your Elderly Parents

Providing support and assistance to family members with physical, financial, or emotional needs can cause significant changes in the family dynamic. Most of the times, as parents get older, the parent-child role is reversed, which is a scenario that usually occurs in caregiving. The aging parents find it difficult to accept that they can no longer provide for their children the way they used to because of financial or physical problems that usually arise around that age. Not to mention what it does to them when they must rely on their children to stay healthy and maintain quality in their lifestyle. All these changes affect the roles, feelings, and responsibilities of the family members, bringing friction, frustration, and frequent arguments between the adult children and their elderly parents.

To be able to interact with one another more effectively, it is critical to understand each other. Although there are no golden success recipes to follow and be certain that you will have the results you want as each situation is different, there is still hope. What matters is to make sure that you are doing the best you can to communicate in a productive manner. This is what the following tips are all about.

Be Helpful & Supportive but Not Condescending

More than often, when some children become adults, they tend to patronize their parents, even unconsciously, which is enough to start an argument. They (caregivers) doll out advice and constantly tell their parents what to do, or even worse, treat them as if they are a child – mostly out of their affection towards their parents rather than with the intent to make them feel bad. Others, slow down their speech or turn up the volume in a way that comes across as condescending.

If you find some truth in these lines, take a step back and consider how your parents may feel about it. They have spent most part of their lives guiding and advising you, so this reversal of roles (where you advise them) may make them feel awkward and, sometimes, even useless or not appreciated. Moreover, treating them as if they are children only makes things worse and closes all channels of communication.

What is suggested? To be supportive and provide encouragement without giving advice that was not requested for. Remember that your efforts to hep could make your elderly parents feel like they no longer have control of things, which can be devastating for them. So, even if you know your parent has dementia, which means they need extra assistance, treat them like respected grown ups rather than children. Finally, it may be better to just allow a neutral 3rd party be the advisor in this relationship.

Pay Close Attention to What Your Elderly Parents Are Saying

Listening is one of the most powerful weapons of every caregiver. If you can understand what is being said beneath the words, you will succeed in making real connections, which is invaluable between a parent-child relationship (or any relationship). So, be patient when there are periods of silence during your conversations with your elderly parents. Instead of trying to fill the silence by interrupting their thoughts, give them the time they need to think through the conversation you are having and the best way to reply. That being said, though, it is equally important to make sure your aging parents also hear you out.

As for the times you don’t see eye to eye, accept that we are all entitled to an opinion. Agree that you disagree and just listen to all sides. Having an argument will not break the family apart. On the contrary, through constructive disagreements we learn each other’s boundaries and cultivate healthy relationships.

Never Shout

Elderly parents seek love, appreciation, and acceptance now that they are no longer as productive as they used to be. Those with severe hearing problems admit facing serious issues with the way caregivers talk to them. Yes, it may be easier for you to just shout so that your loved one(s) can hear what you need to say, but kindly refrain from doing so. It hurts their feelings. Instead, you could talk in a gentle way, remain calm, even if your elderly parent has a difficult time understanding the conversation around him or her, and speak slightly louder without shouting. Also, ensure you do not talk too quickly or mumble, and that you clearly pronounce words. If you realize that your loved one is still struggling to grasp what you are saying, try using different words and re-phrasing while keeping sentences short and simple.

Choose When to Say What

If you have something important you need to discuss with your aging parents, it is best to choose a calm and peaceful environment with no distractions so you get their full attention. Being in a place with lots of noise won’t help you get your message across and you may end up shouting so that you are heard (which is a big NO as mentioned previously). Also, make sure you face your elderly parents when you talk to them. This will make it much easier for them to pick on your facial expressions. For those with hearing problems, facing them will also allow them to read your lips if necessary.

Finally, if this important conversation has to be shared with other family members, ensure the elders are placed in the middle of the seating arrangement or the table, not the outskirts or end respectively. That way, they will feel that they are part of what is going on.

Deal with One Thing at a Time

Many seniors face challenges as they grow older, from loneliness and reduced stamina to memory issues and mobility limitations. Trying to handle all problems at once can not only be embarrassing for the elder but also frustrating for you. It takes too much energy to tackle every single issue at the same time and you may end up feeling fatigue, disappointed, and with your energy reserves drained to the last drop. Although ensuring your aging parents’ wellbeing is the goal, it is equally important you remain healthy, both physically and emotionally. Prioritizing the issues you want to address will help you be on top of things and be able to celebrate small victories, which will give both you and your parents a much-needed spiritual uplift.

Caregiving can be a stressful but, at the same time, a rewarding undertaking. Don’t miss an opportunity to lighten up things and share some happy moments with your elderly parents. If you try to loosen up and not take things too seriously, you will see that communicating with your aging parents is less of a struggle after all!


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