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7 Techniques for Better Communication with Seniors

49 Comments

This article helped, or confirm some issues my Mom and I are going through with my Dad. He has tantrums and becomes upset and bangs his fist on the table etc. like a child. It scares my mother and it stresses me because he gets abusive towards my mother and me at times. I live and pay rent in the basement apartment of their house. Also try to help out when the ever increasing things that they would have done themselves are more of a challenge for them to do. After the first outburst we try to remain calm, get him to calm down etc.. Then he'll have another outburst and I find it very hard not to start yelling back at him. For example, he wants to play 'Scarbble' because he knows it will help him with his memory, but he makes up his own words, then gets frustrated when you try to (gently) suggest it's not a word, or he takes a long time to make a word. Again, we wait, and try to help (which doesn't because he wants to do it himself) or don't help, then he gets frustrated because he feels he's holding up the game. One example. Alzheimer's affected 2 of his brothers who lived into their 80's like him. We (my Mom and I) know it's likely the beginnings of this, but talking about it is difficult and we're afraid to just all out admit that he's taking after his brothers and this is where he's headed. What next? and what to do?

I agree with Isabelcares but I'd like to give you some thoughts about your son. My son has grown up in the same house as his grandmother. As she aged and faced both physical and mental changes we would have age appropriate conversations with him to help him understand what was happening with her. For example when my son was about 4 his Grandma went through chemotherapy. We explained to him that she was sick and that the medicine she had to take to get her all better would make her lose her hair. It turned out to be pretty funny and so uplifting for my Mom. He would ask her everyday "are you bald yet Gram?" It kind of took the stigma out of the whole thing and made her laugh. Anyway, something wonderful happened because of my son growing up with his Grandma. He has grown into one of the kindest, most compassionate young man I have ever known. So I just wanted to share this with you and let you know that this whole situation with your Mom might turn out to be the perfect opportunity for your son to learn some invaluable life lessons just in case you are worried about his well-being with everything that's going on in your home. This is just my experience and I hope it helps with your situation. Good luck during this challenging time.

I enjoyed the article but everyone's caregiving day is different. Here's praying that everyone who is reading this can have peace.

To oldlady2010...let it go. Let all of those resentments go. Agree with her about the importance of things. Just let it go. Even thinking about all the stuff shows...and you can't win. Be at peace with her. She's right, correct whatever. You are not wrong, however. There is no "winning" in this.

You stress "REALLY listen. So important, but often easier said than done. It differs from simply hearing. Really listening is a skill. We usually hear and respond in ways that seem appropriate and there’s nothing wrong with that. But really listening can put us in the other person’s head and allow us to show understanding with a simple phrase (e.g. “it must be so hard,” “it sounds very frustrating”)–few words; no advice.
Especially with aging parents we often make more headway when we respond to feelings, not the words themselves. My counseling training taught me how important this is. It also shows respect. Once again, last week, it worked with my 101-year-old mother-in-law.

Great list, good ideas. I need to remember "Don't Give Advice Unless It's Asked For" as I have a habit of doing that. I will try to rephrase the advice to make it sound like it was my parents idea :)

you have to talk about whats on their mind as they cant hold a thought for long .
sometimes i sit outside NH with my aunt and we dont even need words . she comments on the pretty flowers , rabbits and squirrels and i puff on my tobacco pipe . my aunt lost her hearing aid and is nearly deaf . if im going to freshen up her tea glass i wield the glass in my hand and emphasize FRESH ICE .. key words , body language ..
our first visit to doc resulted in nurses giving me some orders for tests . i bent down and explained to edna that doc wanted to ct her lungs again after the pneumonia . it keeps her not only in the loop but very content and in control .
do not take control from the elder . you will have a battle on your hands tha you cant win . they are 90 years street smart , treat them as your intellectual superior because they are ..

This was a very helpful article. I realized that I was already communicating in some of the ways mentioned in the article and this brightened my day a bit.

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Hi NYdaugherinlaw: My Mom also makes bogus decisions but I realize that I can't change her, influence her, have a discussion, or anything that really resembles a true relationship. So rather than worry about her, try to bend her will to my ideas, I just go along and detach. If just making her own decisions is what makes her happy, than fine. I kind of don't care anymore. I'd rather see her in her phoney happy state than have her waste my time yelling at me. Why not let the parents be? Why do we have to SAVE them? You can't save them if they don't want to cooperate. Until they are deemed unable to care for themselves, then the doctors and so on get involved. Until then, I just try to smile and let go of all the crap. I give what I can, knowing it will often be rejected. I think a measure of respect is what they need: we can't get any from them anymore: forget that! Give what you can and let go of the rest. Enjoy your life and let theirs go the way they wish. It all will pass anyways.

I ask myself: what can I do for my mother that she will enjoy and I will enjoy? Usually there is some kind of put down, argument, or she finds something to complain about, but I just laugh inside now instead of letting it get to me.

But hey, you have to do what works for you.