13 Tips for Communicating with Your Older Parent

Communication Guidelines When Talking with Your Elder Parent

As your parents age, you may see them becoming more and more dependent. Independence is something older people fiercely want to retain, even if their well-being is compromised in the process. For example, perhaps you’ve observed they need some extra assistance with things around the house and/or with their personal hygiene—they aren’t eating regularly, their home isn’t as tidy as it once was, laundry may be piling up, they haven’t been taking their medication regularly, and/or they haven’t been bathing regularly. Discussing these sensitive issues with your parents can be tricky. They may not appreciate your interfering with their lives and sense of privacy and independence.

Below are several tips to help break the communication barriers with your older parents. Keep in mind that everyone’s different, and these may not work 100 percent of the time with your loved ones. Above all, be patient, respectful and kind when speaking with your parents about any topic—especially when discussing their long-term elder care in New Jersey or elsewhere.

  • 1. Be aware that life is probably more difficult for them than it is for you.
  • 2. Realize that your parents are doing their best to maintain control of themselves and the environment around them.
  • 3. Acknowledge that the parents you have now are most likely not the same people they were when you were younger.
  • 4. Make time to listen your parents and give them your full attention when you’re talking (put away the computer, tablet, and/or smart phone).
  • 5. Discuss serious issues, such as long-term care plans, when it’s a good time for both of you (not when anyone is tired or hungry).
  • 6. Keep reminding yourself to keep calm and avoid getting frustrated.
  • 7. Always respect your parents’ thoughts and ideas; even if you don’t agree with them, they need to be assured you value their contribution to the conversation.
  • 8. If there is a big issue to be resolved, don’t try to tackle it all at once. Instead, take small steps to victory.
  • 9. Sometimes a third party may help your parent see things differently. A doctor, a geriatric care manager or social worker, an elder care attorney, their pastor, or another trusted friend may help your parent change their views.
  • 10. Don’t be so regimented in your opinions; remain flexible and willing to compromise.
  • 11. Always speak with respect and not sarcastic or bossy with your parent.
  • 12. Encourage your parents to talk about the “good old days,” and tell them you’re proud of them, how glad you are that they’re your parents.
  • 13. Keep your sense of humor! A myriad of issues can be diffused and even resolved with a good dose of humor.