Communicating with a senior — 5 tips for meaningful conversations

Whether it’s your parents or grandparents who are living with you, providing aged care comes with its own set of challenges. As time passes, you may realise that communicating with a senior can get more difficult as they advance in age.

Daily encounters can become fraught with friction as the roles, responsibilities, and feelings of each family member change. And although all you want is to have a harmonious household, the difference in family dynamics can lead to tense or heated arguments with or involving senior family members.

Constant conflict is not healthy, so knowing and understanding what makes for good, two-way communication can make it easier for everyone to live with and support one another. Below are tips on communicating with elderly family members in a way that’s productive.

1. Try to be empathetic.

A little empathy goes a long way. When your parents are older, a parent-child role reversal happens. Instead of them advising you, you may unwittingly find yourself doling out advice or even lecturing them about certain things.

Remember, your parents are keenly aware of the life changes they’ve undergone. They know they’re old and the limitations that come with it. Strive to be more understanding. Even when it’s hard, try to put yourself in their shoes.

By being empathetic, you can avoid arguments that arise from you becoming condescending and indifferent to how they feel.

2. Listen. Really listen.

Effective communication that’s productive is only possible when the people talking really listen to one another.

You’re busy. But to avoid misunderstandings, stop and listen to what the elderly are saying. Conversely, you need to ensure they hear you well to know exactly what you’re trying to tell them. This way, they can provide you with the appropriate response.

3. Respect their opinions.

No matter how backward their thinking is (in your opinion), senior family members are entitled to have their own perspective on things.

You may clash over a lot of ideas, news, and issues. To avoid getting into arguments, understand that they’re used to seeing the world through a different lens that was acceptable during their time.

Have your say during conversations and leave it at that. Trying to force your opinion on others won’t do any good. If you can, try to arrive at a compromise; otherwise, just leave it.

4. Show that you’re interested.

Indifference is a surefire way to ruin a relationship, and it’s the same with elderly family members. So, try to involve them in talks, decisions, and activities where you know they can contribute.

Ask them how they’re doing or about their childhood and youth. Seniors enjoy reliving the past, and enquiring about their experiences is a guaranteed conversation starter.

5. Laugh with them.

There’s nothing like humour and laughter to bring people together. You can include the elderly during movie nights (even if they nod off to sleep earlier) and watch something funny.

Have a laugh. Appreciate those silly, unexpected moments that not only lighten the mood at home but also help you bond with your family.

Caregiving may be tough, but you can make things easier for everyone (including yourself) by following the tips shared here.

If this article has inspired you to think about your own unique situation and, more importantly, what you and your family are going through right now, please contact your advice professional.

This information does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making a decision, you should consider whether it is appropriate in light of your particular objectives, financial situation or needs.

(Feedsy Exclusive)


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