Six tips for a good conversation with your elderly parents

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”

– Charlie Kaufman

Providing care for elderly parents – whether it’s your full-time responsibility or you’re simply researching the differences in personal care facilities, nursing homes, and the rest – is an honor. We can anticipate life’s physical changes as medicine, physical therapy or other resources become a part of the daily routine.

Emotional changes can be more difficult to predict. When the roles of “caregiver” and “receiver” begin to reverse and blur, life becomes frustrating. After all, your loved one is going through a chapter filled with emotional, social and financial changes, on top of the physical proof of growing older.

We hope these tips for communicating with your elderly loved one can ease the transition.

  1. But don’t over-parent. Remember when your parent gave you uninvited (but probably legitimate) advice years ago? Remember that. The “parent-child role reversal” can be a difficult change for parents to process. You may know about every doctor and community for senior citizens in Pennsylvania, but that knowledge doesn’t warrant a long rant. Giving advice may be better received from an outside point of view. However, your encouragement and support are certainly needed. Communication is a two-way street, and listening is a vital part of any conversation. Avoid interrupting or speaking simply to fill the quiet. Give plenty of time for your loved one to think through your words and choose their own.
  2. Pick your battles. Even the closest family members will stumble into a disagreement at some point. Respect other opinions, and be sure to listen to the thoughts of everyone involved in an issue. Conversations about senior care can cover a staggering amount of topics: mobility limitations, memory problems, housing situations… Prioritize. Are there disagreements that don’t matter in the big picture? What needs must be dealt with in the immediate future? Focus on those crucial needs.
  3. Keep it focused. The environment of any conversation lends personality to the words that arise. Don’t compete with noise or distractions, especially about life-changing questions that deserve each person’s full attention. Need to bring up a possibly confrontational issue? Avoid it during her favorite TV show or while kitchen appliances are being used. Face your loved one as you speak, so emotions and words can be better interpreted. 
  4. Speak dis-tinct-ly. Keep sentences short. Remain calm. Speak in a gentle tone. Make sure everyone involved in the conversation is on the same page before moving on to the next topic. Not every senior citizen will make it known that he or she couldn’t understand what was just said, so always speak up.
  5. Respect the adults. Even if every major decision comes down to your opinion, treat your parent with respect. Though you should always be considerate of the environment, tone and volume of your conversation, be wary of patronizing your parent. They should never be spoken to as though they were a child. Life changes. But that shouldn’t mean it’s impossible to communicate with the elderly parent you know and love. We hope these techniques help as your family considers the many possibilities of professional care in Chester, PA and beyond. Speak up when needed. Listen always. And throughout the entire journey, love.