Tips for Communicating with Elderly Parents

Many adult children and caregivers of aging adults know how difficult it can be to talk with their parents about certain topics. As they get older, you may be concerned about situations that arise. These concerns must be addressed and discussed.

When your parents reach 70 or older, it’s time to start being observant and gather information carefully and thoughtfully. Don’t reach a conclusion from a single observation and decide on the best solution until you have gathered information with an open mind and talked with your parents.

Approach your parents with a conversation. Discuss your observations and ask your parents what they think is going on. If your parents acknowledge the situation, ask what they think would be a good solution. If your parents don’t recognize a problem, use concrete examples to support your case. Be loving, but firm.

Do not wait until a crisis has occurred. If you know your loved one has poor eyesight or has trouble driving at night, begin to address those issues before a problem arises.

They are adults, not children; remember that when you are talking them. Patronizing speech or baby talk will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the same situation.

Their independence is important to them. Move toward solutions that provide the maximum amount of independence for your older person. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. For example, if your loved ones need help at home, look for tools that can help them maintain their strengths. You may want to consider hiring a care provider or companion to assist in a number of areas including meal preparation, laundry, light housekeeping or medication reminders. You may be fortunate to have a friend or relative who can help.

Look at the total picture and be aware of the whole situation. If one of your parents dies and soon afterward their house seems to be in disarray, it’s probably not because whoever is left suddenly became ill. It’s much more likely to stem from the loss of a life-long relationship and a lack of social support. It is imperative that the surviving spouse has friends, support and social life.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many of the issues related to aging can be solved by providing parents with the support they need to continue to maintain their independence. Resources such as hiring a care provider to offer assistance and local senior centers can help provide some of the solutions you need.