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Five Tips To Effectively Communicate With Seniors

In his book How to Say It to Seniors, author David Solie, who specializes in geriatric issues, describes the developmental tasks that the elderly face, and explains how these
“tasks shape their behavior — whether they’re aware of it or not”. Solie describes the “crises of the elderly as a conflict between control and legacy issues. And while he writes in universal terms, it’s important to remember that every individual is different, and each person’s experience of aging will have a lot to do with personal and environmental factors, as well as developmental ones.”

While communication is extremely important with your parents, it can also be a difficult task.  However, if you try and understand their experiences of aging and use these five tips, talking with your parents will hopefully become more pleasant of an activity.

  1. When speaking of concern, use “I” more than “You”.  For example, “I am concerned about you driving at night.” instead of “You are too old to drive at night.”  The latter causes a need to defend and the conversation can become ineffective quickly.
  2. Maintain eye contact.  Eye contact is a polite gesture and continues to give them a sense of control. Make sure you look your parents in the eye when speaking to them.  This will also help them understand your feelings of concern if they can see it in your eyes.
  3. Speak clearly.  As your parents age, hearing diminishes.  There is nothing more stressful than not being able to hear what you are saying. For their sake, and yours, speak up and clearly.
  4. One of the most difficult parts of aging is losing control.  As dementia sets in, your parents’ ability to make decisions goes away.  In this trying time, continue to provide your parents with a sense of control by giving them options.  Options allow them to play a part in their care without requiring too much depth in thought.  For example, “Would you like me to take you to the grocery store at noon or 3:00?” Its sounds so minimal, but that type of communication will go a long way.
  5. Communicate when enough is enough.  It is important that you do not take over too much of the care-taking role. You want to continue a positive parent/child relationship, thus, it is very important to communicate with your parents this.  Make sure to give them some time to process if new caretakers will be assisting in their needs.

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