Communication can become more difficult as people age. They may have issues with hearing or memory, have a hard time remembering the correct words, and may mumble or repeat themselves. This can make it difficult for them to feel heard, and they may lash out in frustration. It’s important to remember they are still the person you love, even if their behavior changes. Knowing how to communicate effectively with the elderly can make the experience pleasant rather than stressful for you both.
The first thing to remember is to not let your own frustration show in your conversations. You’ll have to learn to be patient, even if you have to repeat yourself over and over. It’s not their fault, and you don’t want your irritation to color every conversation with them. Remain as kind and loving as you can, try to avoid reacting if they become angry or belligerent, and take a deep breath when you need to.
Be a Good Listener
Even if your loved one’s abilities have changed, they don’t want to be treated differently or feel like they are a burden. Allow them time to finish their sentences, rather than rushing ahead and finishing it for them. Everyone wants to feel heard, so listen to what they have to say, even if it takes them longer to get the words out. Be aware that communication will likely take longer than you’re accustomed to, so keep conversations simple.
For many aging adults, it becomes difficult to hear as they get older. If your loved one has some hearing loss, be sure to speak slowly, clearly, and at a volume that they can hear. However, try to avoid shouting at them. Nobody likes to be shouted at. Some people who have hearing issues rely on lip reading and nonverbal communication to understand, so be sure you are facing them when you speak to them so that they can see your facial expressions. Smile and make eye contact, and encourage them to continue if necessary.
If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may forget what was already said during the conversation, or even who you are. You may need to gently remind them more than once, but try to avoid saying things like “Don’t you remember?” They can’t help that they don’t remember, and bringing up their limitations is not going to jog their memory. You want to encourage a two-way conversation as much as possible, but as they decline you may just be repeating the same conversation. What is important is the quality of time you spend with them, so shift your focus there.
As much as is possible, try to involve them in the decision making process regarding their care and daily activities. It can be upsetting to feel like you are no longer in control of your own life. Allow them as much control as is feasible, and show respect for their personal space. If they are distressed or angry, try to empathize and show that you understand how they feel. They are not going to be around forever, so use the precious time you have left to maintain a meaningful relationship with them.
If you are looking for a caring and loving home for your loved one in a Tucson assisted living community, our caregivers and residents are welcoming. Call us today to find out how Arizona Homestead can provide them with the care they need.