Communication can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. As the people we care about grow older, it can become even harder to talk about difficult issues. When you’re worried about the health and safety of an older relative or friend, it can be easy to forget that everyone—no matter what age—needs to feel in control of his/her own life. Here are some suggestions that may help you when you’re talking with seniors.
- Listen to your relative/friend at least as much as you talk. It can be easy to fall into the trap of talking too much, especially while discussing a difficult topic and feeling a little nervous. Remember that conversation is a two-way street.
- Be positive. Try constructive suggestions instead of negative statements. “Let’s try having a housekeeper do the heavier work so you can keep things the way you like them,” may work better than, “You know you can’t keep this place clean anymore.”
- Try to set aside a quiet place to talk. Try to choose a time when your relative/’friend is feeling at his/her best.
- Remember that you friend/relative still needs to make decisions about his/her won life. Maintaining a person’s sense of independence and dignity may be as important as getting groceries delivered.
- Be patient. Allow enough time for your friend/relative to complete her thoughts without interruption. Some older people need extra time to express themselves.
- Remember that part of feeling secure is feeling needed. Sometime it can still help to talk about your own feelings and let your relative/friend offer you some comfort.
- Never argue no matter how much you want to! Realize that each of you may have differences in your approach to a problem or in your feelings about it. Try to talk about those differences without criticizing each other.
- If you’re really having problems discussing something, slow down and let go of it. Leave it for another day. Try to think beyond the words and the behavior to what your friend/relative is really feeling.