Communicating with aging parents can be difficult, particularly when health issues present obstacles to clear, effective conversations. Dementia, hearing loss, and medication can prevent clarity and understanding and lead to helplessness and frustration for both parties. There are plenty of techniques out there – and even a support group or two – to make sure you have the tools you need to communicate effectively with your mother or father into their golden years.
If you are the primary caregiver for your parent, this can throw your life into a whirlwind of changes and create complications in your relationship. Suddenly, roles have reversed, and it can be a lot to handle, both for you and for your parent. But you’re not alone! Far from it! In fact, there are a myriad of communities, both online and in person, where those with older parents get together to support each other with useful advice and guidelines for helping have difficult conversations with an aging parent. Here are some tips to help you cope.
1. Try not to give advice
Your parent has probably been guiding you, advising you, helping you all your life. So for the tables to have turned so suddenly can be hard on them. If you can, steer clear from giving advice, because all too often, it leads to resistance, and suddenly you’re fighting an uphill battle. Let them make their own decisions. If you want to be a guide, be a quiet guide, and wait for them to ask you for your advice.
2. Listen actively
This is really an extension of the last tip. Ideally, you’re not giving advice but instead providing your parent with the opportunity to talk about how they feel about their changing situation. Silence is okay; you don’t have to talk just because there is a lull in the conversation. Listening really is an art, and it’s one you have to actively practice. Not jumping in with advice or to add your opinion is harder than it looks – start practicing!
3. Understand your differing perspectives
Once you have started actively listening, you have to be willing to understand that your parent may have a different perspective to you. You’re going to disagree. But it doesn’t have to be a problem, if you’re willing to accept them for who they are and what they want. Talking to an older parent can seem daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. When everyone involved is able to set aside their own wants and needs and come to the table ready to talk about what’s best for everybody – that’s when effective conversations happen, people feel listened to, and everybody walks away feeling happy and loved.
4. Select an appropriate environment for clear communication
Stay away from engaging in a conversation with your parents near a TV or radio. The noise can be distracting and prevent effective communication. Choose a relaxing spot, like a park or garden and make sure it’s comfortable and rejuvenating. Look them in the eye when you talk and make sure to listen to whatever they have to say. Approach delicate matters with extreme care, and don’t put any pressure on their judgment. Allow them to make their own decisions.
5. Be patient and kind
Don’t monopolise the conversation, be patient and allow your parent the time they need to respond. Pause between sentences and questions, and practice listening (see above), particularly if you’re parent has memory loss. Respect their space, and above all, be kind. We all want to be listened to, to be heard, to be seen. Patience and kindness can be challenging, but the world needs much more of both.
The conversation has to start from the heart, and if you show them that you’re genuine they’ll be more than willing to listen. You might be hesitant because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but it is important to engage in a dialogue. Effective communication is crucial in all relationships.
Author Bio: Edward Francis is a regular writer and blogger. He usually writes on social issues and issues related to healthcare. He is also writing for a site https://www.foresthc.com where you can get elderly care homes, retirement villages and UK residential nursing homes. – See more at: https://seniorcare2017.wpengine.com/blog_information/15-11-27/5_Tips_for_Effective_Communication_with_Older_Parents.aspx#sthash.HVUxLudS.dpuf
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