February 9, 2018
It is always best to tell the truth, right? Yet there are occasions when some truths are better left unsaid or at least worded more positively, particularly when communicating with aging parents. While we could have the best of intentions in attempting to help seniors navigate life, we could help prevent hurt feelings in our loved ones by rethinking statements like the following:
- Don’t you remember…? Short-term loss of memory is quite common in older adults, and pointing it out so bluntly can be belittling. As an alternative, try non-verbal strategies to help jog your loved one’s memory, such as strategically placing positive reminder notes throughout the house, like on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, TV remote, etc. If a verbal reminder would still be helpful, make sure you try to keep your tone light; and inquire if the senior would like someone to assist, such as in making a medical appointment for her or getting a prescription.
- You’re not trying hard enough. The stark reality is, many older adults develop physical or cognitive impairments that make once-simple tasks extremely challenging. It’s just as important not to take control over tasks the individual may still do, but which might take a bit longer to do. Offering to serve as a partner in accomplishing an arduous task could be effective, such as asking the senior to take care of an element of the task as you tackle another part of the task.
- I know; you already told me. It can be frustrating to hear stories you’ve already heard over and over again from a senior loved one; however, it’s important to be patient and provide the senior the respect you would want if the tables were turned.
- When you die, may I have…? Nobody wants to feel as though their possessions are of such value that somebody can’t wait to get their hands on them. If the older adult doesn’t have a will set up that outlines his or her wishes, it’s certainly smart to have that looked after, but allow the person the freedom to decide to whom his or her belongings should be given.
- Wake up! Forget about any embarrassment you might have about your senior family member drifting off to sleep at inappropriate times, like during a movie, a religious service, or a concert. Altered sleep patterns, prescribed medication side effects, among other factors, make it hard for some seniors to sleep well during the night.