I'm often asked, "Paula, how do I talk to my Mom/Dad about the really tough stuff?"
I get asked this so often that I thought I'd write a little about communicating with our elders, especially those with beginning dementia or mild cognitive impairment. I always talk about how communicating with our elders is a little different - and then again - how it's not!
So how is it different?
Let's face it, the communication process itself is complex- landmines abound no matter what your age! But communication really can be further complicated by age. Why? Lots of reasons, including the normal aging process, sensory loss (hearing and eyesight), decline in memory, slower processing of information, and lessening of power and influence over seniors' lives.
How is it not different?
Well everyone, no matter their age or situation, deserves communication that is delivered with dignity, respect, and clarity. And a smile really goes a long way! Yes, it is that simple!
But in order to discuss the difficult topics like health, hygiene, driving, finances, etc., you really can optimize your communication to get the best possible outcome by remembering a few tips:
Limit distractions - turn off the tv and put your phone away in order to have a discussion
LISTEN! More than you talk!
Stand or sit in front of the person and make eye contact before speaking
Don't over talk! Use short, simple sentences
Be patient. Slow down and allow time for an answer
Synchronize your verbal and nonverbal messages
Validate feelings about losses and frustrations
By following these simple steps, your communication will improve and the "tough stuff" won't be so tough to talk about!