Many of our clients are older adults. They have lived long lives and are now retired. As we grow in life our method of communication changes. The way a mother communicates with her young child is very different then the way a father communicates with his teenage son. Those methods of communication are different then a parent talking to an adult child about marriage or having children. Effective communicators know that they need to change their method in order to communicate effectively with different audiences. Since our industry focuses on older adults we are going to discuss communication methods with elderly loved ones.
Communication needs change as we grow up. Young children need to be spoken to differently then adults. Communication needs for elderly adults changes over time as well. Sometimes we don’t even notice that we must begin changing our way of communicating with elderly loved ones. The reasons we need to change is because our elderly loved ones now suffer from memory loss, slower comprehension time, psychological and aging factors. They may also suffer from medical conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. These issues can quickly create communication barriers between an adult child and their elder parent. An adult may continue to communicate with their aging parent the same way they used to without realizing the need for change.
Communicating with an elder loved one can be frustrating if you do not change your strategy. They may feel as though you are not listening to them, or talking to them like they were a child. This is condescending and can escalate to a person shouting in order to get their message across. When tempers flare this could potentially lead to elder abuse depending on what happens. On the opposite end, communication can completely stop as the divide increases.
There are some ways to avoid these situations. Here are some useful tips to use when communicating with an elderly loved one.
- Lower background noise, or move to a quieter location. Distractions can make communication harder.
- Ease into conversations. Talk about casual topics before more serious ones, think of it as a “warm up period.”
- Discuss topics that are familiar. This way the elder loved one can participate and become engaged.
- Stay focused. Avoid jumping around from topic to topic. It can be confusing.
- Avoid being verbose. Use short sentences and ask short questions.
- Allow time to respond and have patience when they reminisce.
- Offer choices rather then opened questions when decisions need to be made.
- Listen actively. If something is unclear ask for clarification.
Communicating with an elderly loved one does not need be frustrating. These tips can help and extra patience goes a long way. If you have any questions or want to talk to an attorney give our office a call 818.887.9401.