Effective communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. It is also the basis of adequate care for elderly parents. Nevertheless, communication with the elderly can sometimes be difficult, whether because of hearing or speech difficulties or because of changes in mood or even character inherent in advanced age.
Communication with the elderly can be quite difficult for young people, which is why today we are covering this challenging topic and presenting tips on how to talk to your loved ones to ensure adequate care for elderly parents.
Basics of effective communication with elderly
Communication with an elderly person is often difficult – and we have to overcome many barriers due to the age of our interlocutor. Sometimes we may see that communication with an older person does not look the same as with an adult, a teenager or a child. It is necessary to understand that, just as we talk to a child in a way that is adapted to their age and needs, communication with a senior should also be adapted to their age, illness or predisposition. Seniors expect to be noticed, to be heard and to have their needs met at least to some extent.
When interacting with an elderly person, we should pay as much attention to our verbal communication as to our non-verbal communication. These two elements contribute to fully understanding the senior. Various disorders and dysfunctions may arise in senior age, which will make a difference and may hinder our conversation with the elderly person.
Impediments to talking to parents in the old age
Communication with an elderly person can often be a little more difficult than talking to a young person. Why is that? Well, in old age people usually develop many ailments that can effectively impede the process of communicating. As a result of various illnesses, seniors can often speak unclearly or choose their words incorrectly. In many cases, you may be dealing with people who are no longer as mentally fit as they used to be and therefore tend to forget certain facts or confuse them. An older person may often repeat what they said a moment before or answer questions completely illogically.
Hearing problems, which often occur in old age, can also be quite troublesome. They may be the result of illness or a natural consequence of the ageing process, but whatever the cause, they are always a nuisance for both parties. In such a case, the elderly person cannot hear what the carer wants to communicate, so they cannot respond meaningfully.
Besides verbal communication problems, body language issues can also be equally troublesome. As the years go by, more and more ailments appear, and the body weakens and can no longer behave in the same way as it did just a few years earlier. Older people often have difficulty expressing emotions with facial expressions, so it will be harder for other people to read their moods. Muscle weakness renders gesticulation progressively more problematic, so body language is no longer as easy to read.
3 handy tips for communication to assure the best care for elderly parents
Below you may find top tips for communicating with older people that you will find useful when helping elderly parents.
Remember that a conversation with an elderly loved one may proceed at a slower pace than you are used to or comfortable with, but do not rush them and remain calm. Be prepared to pause frequently and wait for a response.
Try to keep the conversation on one topic and avoid asking multiple questions in a row – this can be confusing for older people. Avoid planning your answers or follow-up questions while your loved one is speaking, rather use active listening techniques. Pay attention to the tone of voice, facial expressions and body language to understand what your loved one means. Patience and understanding are key to communicating correctly with an older person.
Avoid patronising seniors
Some people speak down to seniors or treat them like children. It is a major mistake that can cause a senior to withdraw into themselves or feel hurt. Try slowing down speech, speaking in a deeper tone and increasing the volume if your loved one has difficulty hearing or processing language, but still treat them as an equal.
There is a difference between speaking clearly and speaking as if to a child. Sometimes people speak in a higher voice when talking to ageing adults, which only makes it harder for them to hear the words clearly, so opt for clear pronunciation of words and simple messages instead.
Accept differences and do not create conflicts
No matter how close-knit you are with your family, differences of opinion happen. Therefore, when talking to parents respect their opinions in the same way you would want yours to be respected and do not belittle those who are in disagreement with you. Listen to all parties and try to compromise when decisions need to be made but do not treat your senior’s opinion as less important. And in the case of conflicting world views, sometimes it is better to keep quiet and not upset the senior to convince them of something.
Communication and care for elderly parents
Appropriate communication is the basis of good care for elderly parents, so try to compromise and make the senior citizen as comfortable as possible. Do not get into pointless conflicts and rely on clear messages. And try to remain calm and patient, even if it is extremely difficult.