How to communicate with aging parents

When speaking with parents about major life changes, it can be extremely difficult to have an open, two-way conversation. Some major life events that are typically difficult to tackle are having the conversation about the need for ongoing care, financial control, or even house relocating. Often this can cause disagreements which can be frustrating when trying to help. Even just simply knowing how to communicate and engage them in a conversation can be difficult.

Here are some ways that may make it easier for you to approach the conversations and engage in productive communication between you and your ageing parents.

mum and daughter

Ask questions!

Many of us don’t ask our elders nearly enough about their lives, especially as they get older. Many elderly people love talking about the things they did when they were young. Ask your parent to tell you about their childhood or their young adult years. This will take them back to a place of happy memories and will allow your parent to reminisce back to their youth. Engaging in conversation about their lives, will make them feel seen and heard and will encourage feelings of happiness through recalling memories.

Offering help in the right way

Offering help in the right way will allow your parents to remain as in control as they would like to be, however it is allowing them to know that you are there for them if they need you to be. Try not to sound condescending when offering help as this could lead to your parents feeling angry or defensive. Make sure you ask your parent if they need help with anything before taking it over completely.

Emphasise with feelings

The best way of communicating with parents is to make sure you have an empathic perspective from their point of view. When talking with older adults it is critical to acknowledge and let them talk about these losses letting the conversation flow. It will then provide opportunities to talk about alternatives to these life changes that might occur.

Chose the right environment when speaking about potential changes

When looking to approach an important conversation, make sure that the setting your parents are in is where they feel most comfortable. For example, this could be a room in their house you know they are most relaxed in. This will allow them to feel more comfortable engaging in the conversation. Ask your parent if now would be a convenient time to talk and choose settings where there are no distractions, and the noise level is low.

Offer options and not advice

Practice good communication skills when it comes to important conversations. Try to listen without passing judgment. It will make your parents feel better about bringing up potential issues they are going through. Make sure to include your parents in the conversations and ask for their ideas and input. Once they are engaged in a conversation, listen carefully to their concerns, and ask open-ended questions that encourage discussion rather than closed questions where the answer can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Remember to offer options and not advice to keep the conversation flowing at their pace. Give gentle suggestions or ask questions!

Start your discussions early

Don’t wait until an emergency happens to begin talking to your parent about life changes. Start the conversation now. If you wait until the last moment, there may be fewer choices available to them meaning you will have to be more reactive in a crisis. Bring tough conversations up with your parents as soon as you feel the time is right. This will help them better understand why you are bringing up sensitive issues.

When it comes to caring, we at Home Instead Luton and Central Bedfordshire understand why for some it can be difficult to accept the reality that extra support is needed. For more information or to speak to our team of experts then please call us on 01582 742275. We’d be happy to answer your questions and work with you on providing care for a loved one.