There comes a time in everyone’s life when the people who have taken care of us become the ones who need to be cared for. But how do we talk to seniors respectfully and still get the answers we need to help them? It can be uncomfortable carrying on these difficult conversations. We may feel like we’re condescending or intruding and they may get angry or frustrated. But asking hard questions about an aging individual’s health, daily patterns, and ability levels is absolutely essential.
Ignoring the Danger Could Be a Fatal Mistake
Aging seniors value their independence and are often reluctant to discuss anything that might make them seem weak or incapable of living as freely they have. But that dignity and pride may cause them to ignore danger signs or keep things to themselves.
Seniors are at much higher risk for:
Loneliness (which can have life-threatening consequences)
Decreased ability to function normally
By staying socially, emotionally, and intellectually involved with your loved one encourages them open up about their difficulties. And when you talk to seniors you love it lets you address issues like their mental health, diet, and medical problems or assess the need for in-home care.
But how do you start those hard conversations?
How to Successfully Talk to Seniors About Anything
Below are a few guidelines to help you talk to seniors in a way that creates a comfortable and productive dialog with aging loved ones.
If you have a specific issue in mind, research it first. Having facts and figures to back up your argument will go a long way toward convincing a reluctant senior.
Create Ongoing Communication
Be level-headed, calm, and accepting of their point of view. Remember, you don’t have to get everything out in the open at once. Take big issues one step at a time and speak with your loved ones on multiple occasions. It makes big problems seem smaller.
Be Indirect (to Start)
Ask benign questions like “how’s the house?” or “are you still driving to Sally’s for lunch every weekend?” Their responses will let you judge how open they are to talking about their needs and may spotlight issues you didn’t see before.
Be Direct When You Need To
But don’t be aggressive—it’ll only raise tempers on both sides. Reassure your loved one that you’re here to help and everything you’re doing and saying is for their benefit.
Don’t Remove Them from the Solution
You can help your loved one make decisions and help them reach goals you’ve set together but you should never swoop in and present a solution as a foregone conclusion. “I’m going to do this for you” sounds a whole lot like “you can’t do this for yourself.”
Give Them Time to Think
When things get heavy, take a break. Change the subject or follow up next week. Ask your loved one to think about what you’ve discussed and offer possible solutions and alternatives for themselves.
Know When to Get Help
Sometimes the best (and only) option is to bring in an impartial third party to play moderator between the two of you. They could be a family member, a friend, or a professional such as a doctor or senior advocate. Your local Area Agency on Aging has tons of resources you can use including directories of counselors and senior specialists to call upon.
And when it’s time to discuss in-home care, Second Family Home Care provides professional non-medical care providers in Plano on an as-needed basis. Our caring service providers can help for a few hours a day or around the clock. Call (972)347-0700 to schedule a free consultation today.