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What NOT to Say: Tips for Better Communication with Your Aging Parent

aging parent

It is always better to be honest with others, right? Even so, there are times when some truths are better left unsaid or at least worded more positively, especially when talking with aging family members. Although we might have the best of intentions in attempting to help seniors navigate life, we could help alleviate problems with hurt feelings in our loved ones by rethinking statements such as the following:

  • Don’t you remember…? Short-term loss of memory is quite common in older adults, and bluntly pointing it out can be belittling. Instead, try non-verbal tactics to help jog your loved one’s memory, such as strategically placing positive reminder notes around the house, like on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, TV remote, etc. If a verbal reminder would still be helpful, be sure to try to keep your tone light; and inquire if the senior would like you to assist, such as in making a medical appointment on her behalf or picking up a prescription.
  • You’re just not trying hard enough. The truth is, many older adults develop physical or cognitive impairments which make once-simple tasks extremely difficult. It’s also important never to take over tasks the individual could do, but which could take a bit longer. Offering to serve as a partner in accomplishing a challenging task could be effective, like asking the senior to manage some of the task while you tackle another aspect of the job.
  • I’m aware; you already told me. It can be frustrating to listen to stories you’ve already heard over and over again from a senior loved one; however, it’s important to stay patient and offer the senior the respect you would want if the tables were turned.
  • When you die, am I able to have…? No one wants to feel as though their possessions are of such value that family can’t wait to get their hands on them. It is definitely a good idea to have a will set up that outlines your loved one’s wishes, but your parent should have the freedom to select to whom his or her belongings should be given.
  • Wake up! Forget about any embarrassment you could have about your senior family member falling to sleep at inappropriate times, like during a movie, a religious service, or a concert. Altered sleep patterns, medication side effects, among other factors, make it hard for some older adults to sleep well at night time.

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