Opening Lines of Communication with Aging Parents

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,923
    Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care provides some tips for effective communication with seniors and how to overcome obstacles. This video focuses on how to open up the lines of communication.

    Mary Alexander: Hi! I'm Mary Alexander Home Instead Senior Care. Today I'm discussing tips for effective communication with seniors and now I want to share with you how to open up the lines of communication.

    As adults, we have learned to communicate with a lot of people in a number of situations. But talking with our parents about sensitive topics such as feeling health, driving, finances, and living situations can be very tense conversations. The fact that many seniors may still be dealing with their grown sons or daughters as if their children, rather than adults, make these conversations particularly difficult.

    But aging issues need to be addressed and it's better to broach these topics before a problem arises or there is a crisis. A good rule of thumb is to start talking while your aging parents are fairly healthy and there are no apparent concerns.

    Home Instead Senior Care, an international leader in providing in-home services for the elderly recommends the 40/70 rule. The idea is that if you are 40 or your parents are 70, it's time to start talking at least about certain senior topics. Starting these conversations can be done by simply making time to listen. What do I mean by that? Well we're all so busy these days the one of the biggest challenges in dealing with the elderly is to slow down and find the time to be fully present and listen. Don't try to discuss important issues when you're driving to a meeting, helping the kids with homework, or are rushed and preoccupied with other issues.

    Talking about critical issues with your parents means taking time, being patient and recognizing that solving any issue will probably require more than one discussion. It's important to go into all of these conversations with an open mind and be open to other options.

    You may think you have all the answers but be sure to pay attention to your senior loved one's ideas and fears that they may express indirectly. Generally, older people understand far more than they express. So it's important to understand their thoughts and listen for deeper meaning. For example, if you notice that your parents seem to be having a hard time taking care of the house or personal grooming habits since their spouse passed away, there is no need to immediately suggest assisted living.

    Perhaps, any conversation about moving can be put off for a few months by hiring some one to come in and help for a few hours each day or making safety improvements around the house.

    Being receptive to what your parents have to say can go a long way toward opening lines of communication. If they're intent on managing on their own, don't argue but do try to find solutions that work for all of you. For example, if you've offered to help with and they refuse, see if they would be willing to consult to professional such as an accountant instead. Another way to actively listen is to pay attention to their mood. Make sure they are feeling well, awake and engaged, just like the rest of us. If they are in bad mood or don't feel well, they may not be up to having a serious discussion. If that's the case, it's best to put it off, if you do reason in past, the best thing to do is clear the air. Express your frustration with them quietly.

    Chances are, they feel he same way. Clearing the air may help you find some common ground. Sometimes the bet solution during a disagreement is to back off. If you continue to badger your parents, you'll only alienate them and frustrate your self. A better approach is to keep in touch and offer to help again, if and when they seem more receptive.

    So now that you've leaned, when and how to open up the lines of communication, let's talk about what are likely to be some of the most difficult topics for you and your parents.