6 tips for better communication with senior loved ones
Thursday, January 30 2014 11:42 PM
“Don’t tell me you understand how I feel. You can’t understand how it is to be old. When you are old, nobody listens to you.”
Sound familiar? Newly admitted residents frequently view staff members and even family with anxiety. Often, they are experiencing the sadness of losing another part of their independence.
Added challenges include new faces, new names and new schedules in an unfamiliar environment. Coupled with the possibility of health, cognitive and communication deficits, it is understandable that residents are wary of allowing us into their personal lives.
How do we become better communicators in our day-to-day encounters with others? Here are some suggestions.
Focus on the other person and don’t move on to another subject until he or she is ready. Maintain eye contact, speak slowly and clearly, and use words familiar to the person to promote better understanding.
Ask only one question at a time
Provide sufficient time for a reply. Pushing for an answer can feel threatening.
Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a one-word yes or no answer. “Do you like your room?” does not encourage the speaker to extend the conversation. Prompt details by asking, “I see pictures of children on your dresser — who are they?”
Responses don’t always have to be verbal. Remember to be brief. It is important for a person to feel free to express himself or herself without being interrupted or cut short. It is also helpful to provide encouraging statements that show you are taking in all that is being said.
Know that silence is OK
Allow time for silence and thought. Calm silence builds trust.
Believe that it matters, because it does
It is important for your loved one to be liked and supported, but even more important for him or her to be understood. Being understood is the start of any good relationship — it leads to trust and feeling valued by others.
Click here to read more tips for improving your relationship with loved ones in their senior years.
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