Communication with the Elderly

Several tips on communication with elderly people may be helpful in coping with family relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to talk with elderly parents, especially when roles are reversed and the adult child is providing advice. Some helpful guidelines follow.

  • Giving advice is best avoided if it hasn’t been asked for; let an outside person be the advisor.
  • Listening is a two-way street. Try to determine if your parent is hearing what you say and don’t interrupt as your family member may be thinking of a reply to you.
  • There probably are differences of opinion among family members. Respect opinions, listen to all sides and make a decision together when possible.
  • Speak distinctly as many older adults cannot hear well; they may not understand the conversation going on around them. Focus on one idea at a time, remain calm, talk in a gentle and matter-of-fact way and keep sentences short and simple.
  • Don’t be condescending. Speak louder and slow down your speaking but don’t speak to them as you speak to a child. They are sure to recognize your patronizing attitude.
  • Choose a proper environment for conversation by avoiding noise from a radio or TV. Face the person, or if in a group, place the senior in the middle so conversation surrounds them.
  • Respectfully allow seniors to stay in control of themselves and their environment.
  • Pick your battles by prioritizing the issues you want to address. Recognize that elderly persons have multiple challenges, such as mobility limitations, decreased stamina, living alone issues and memory problems. Strive for small victories.
  • Remember that laughter is the best medicine. There always are humorous moments for you to share a laugh. Be sure they know you are laughing with them and not at their expense.




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