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Family Communication

Common Issues, Aging and Mental Health (courtesy of The Center for Aging and Life Change)

I. Elements of good communication
II. Communication between generations
III. Communication between adult siblings
IV. Practical considerations with frail elders

IV. Some practical considerations when talking to frail elders

Hearing Problems
Elderly parents may have a hearing problem that they are unwilling or unable to correct or acknowledge. Generally it is the higher frequencies that disappear first. Yelling louder is usually not helpful because it drives the voice right up into the range that is so difficult to hear. Try to increase volume without shouting and face the person directly so they may see your gestures, your expressions, and watch your lips move.

While some may be more reticent than others to initiate a story, most of us appreciate telling or hearing stories about the past. Stories are a great way to find out what is on someone’s mind, what is important to them, how they see the world. If stories come from parents, it is also a good way to learn of your own past, to capture the color and flavor of your life and its origins. Sometimes it is easier to elicit stories over shared tasks like sorting photos, cooking, finishing a piece of furniture.

Most people, old and young alike, enjoy a good joke. Some of the bawdiest jokes I know have come from people in their 70’s and 80’s.

The current generation of our elders comes from a time when cursing and swearing was unacceptable and psychobabble hadn’t been made up yet. Even to the most open-minded of old spirits, swearing is often offensive and psychological jargon meaningless.

Physical and verbal expressions of love and affection can be very meaningful, even powerful. Even the most emotionally hardened of adults tend to soften in later years and need to hear that they are valued.

Silence is still golden. It can create a nice wide space for those elders who are more reticent or unsure to take the time to remember and to express themselves.

Difficult Communications
What may look like rudeness or grumpiness may actually be a reaction to physical discomfort, loss or fears about loss. Look for an underlying message and check it out.

Painkillers, illness, loneliness, depression, drugs, dementia can affect one’s state of mind and the quality of communication. Conversations that are difficult to understand or follow may be signs of a serious problem that should not go untended.


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Terri Coomer
Live Love & Laugh Homecare
3307 S. College Avenue, Suite 216
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Home Care Services : Non-Medical

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