This may save you from learning the hard way, how to communicate successfully with elderly parents. Parents who once looked after you will be looking for your support and care more and more as they age. The roles are reversed, but there are techniques that can reduce tension and enable you to cope.
- Accept that there may be differences of opinion. People from different generations are bound to see things in their own way. Respect each other’s differences rather than disregarding them, and reach decisions together whenever you can.
- Speak distinctly. I know I don’t always catch everything people say to me, which leads to interesting conversations, but not everybody will admit to failing hearing. Identify which pitch of your voice is more audible to your parent and try to focus on using that pitch. Face the person you are talking to, because lip movement plays an important part in guessing what is being said.
- Don’t give the impression of being condescending. Being patronising is a sure way to ignite an argument. Stay calm and be prepared to repeat yourself.
- Only play the advisor when you are asked to do so. Role reversal will not be an easy journey for your parent. If possible, ask a person that is not a member of your family to make the suggestions, and take on the role of encouragement and support yourself.
- Listen fully to what your parent is trying to convey. There may be subtleties in the speech that you may need to respond to. Allow for passages of silence, and show the respect of not interrupting. I found that a game of Scrabble with my mother was an ideal way to use our time together.
- Avoid competition with other noises. Ambient sounds such as a radio, a group of people or the television may cause your parent to withdraw, because differentiating voice patterns amongst them becomes difficult. Try to ensure that your parent is between people talking to each other, if possible.
- Try to put yourself in their position. I remember my parents becoming interested in the hatch, match and dispatch columns of the newspapers. A series of losses during later years is bound to cause a sense of loneliness on their part.
- Laughter is the best medicine. It cements relationships, can clear the air and reduce tension.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. The challenges as you get older would include decreased physical fitness, mobility limitations and shortage of memory. Giving way at times may seem to be losing, but trust in the fact that you may gain a lot in the relationship.
Senior Support hopes that these tips can prove helpful in improving effective communication with your parents.