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Communication With Elderly Parents

by Sharon O'Neil

As your parents grow older, communicating with them can be a challenge. Besides facing a generation gap, your elderly parents may be dealing with health problems and disabilities. Today, the average life expectancy for 65-year-olds is age 84 for men and age 86 for women, according to the Social Security Administration. The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics reports, "Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being," found that adults age 75 and older spend around 8 percent of their leisure time communicating and socializing.

Keep It Simple

In today's fast-paced society, most adults use technology to text and email to stay in touch. While sending texts with abbreviations like "LOL" or "SMH" may work great with your kids, even the hippest senior may be left scratching her head and thinking "IDK." It's best to keep your mom's technological comfort level in mind as you communicate with her. If a face-to-face conversation isn't possible, a phone call or personal letter from you will likely make her day.

Take It Slow

Try to talk to your elderly parents when you have time for a conversation that goes at their pace. Even if your dad repeats a story you have heard many times, humor him and listen as if you are hearing it for the first time. Use open-ended questions like, "How did you and Mom meet your new card game partners?" instead of, "Are you playing cards with the Smiths again tonight?" If he has a hearing impairment, face him while talking, and speak slowly and clearly. If he can hear you, but has difficulty understanding what you are saying, try repeating yourself using different words.

Make It Positive

Keep your interactions with your elderly parents as positive as possible. For many older adults, the golden years become tarnished with boredom, medical problems and financial worries. Staying connected with your mom as she grows older and encouraging her to socialize with others can help her overcome of threat of depression, according to helpguide.org. Even if your mom suffers from dementia and doesn't seem to understand what you are saying, a happy tone will help her feel more at ease.

Approach It Respectfully

When you need to have difficult conversations with your parents, be respectful of their feelings. If you worry about your dad's ability to drive, approach him with your concerns, then listen to his response. Be straightforward and get his input on possible solutions. You can say, "Dad, as your eyesight and reaction time decline, driving is going to be more difficult. Let's talk about other options you have so you will be safe."

About the Author

Sharon O'Neil has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published on various websites, including Walden University's Think+Up. She has worked in international business and is a licensed customs broker. She is currently a supervisor with a social service agency that works with families to prevent child abuse and neglect. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University.

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