Yes, we’ve all heard that story about feisty Aunt Mary. Only about 21 times! So what should we say when mom or dad starts to tell the same story for the 22nd time? Simple – just listen.
As our parents start to age, they experience many new happy events, such as the birth of a great-grandchild. But growing older can also bring with it dwindling independence and health. This may cause frustration on their part as they lose control of part of their lives. So how can you help them cope without being disrespectful? Careful dialogue is one of them.
Here are ten things you shouldn’t say to your aging parents.
- “You’ve told me this already.” Take advantage of the story to ask questions that might open a new discussion. If mom is telling you about Uncle Bill’s trip to Ireland again, don’t ask her about Uncle Bill’s trip, ask her about her own favorite childhood vacation.
- “How did you miss your doctor’s appointment?” Scolding a parent can be demeaning. Rather, talk it through to find out why they missed the appointment to see if the issue can be addressed in the future.
- “You’re too old to drive.” Driving is a sign of independence and very hard for someone to relinquish. Approach the issue by saying you’ve noticed a lot of reckless drivers on the road, and you’re afraid something will happen because of another driver’s bad habits.
- “I just showed you how to do that yesterday.” Yes, you may have shown them how to use the DVR. But instead of telling them how to do it, write down detailed instructions using illustrations and possibly colored notes or tape on the device.
- “You should be using your cane/walker!” This is another protest against aging. The senior sees it as a sign of weakness. Simply tell your parent you are concerned that they might fall, and the consequences could be devastating.
- “What has that got to do with what we’re talking about?” Seniors often lose their train of thought and change the topic mid-conversation. You can gently try to bring the talk back to the original topic, or say nothing and just listen.
- “I want your china when you die.” Seniors certainly don’t like to be reminded that they will be dying soon. Rather, you can ask if they have stipulated the disbursement of property in their will to make sure their belongings go to the right person.
- “You shouldn’t be living alone anymore.” Your parent will see this as giving up their independence. Instead, express your concern that if something should happen to them, like a fall, nobody would be there here to help.
- “How can you not remember that?” You just had a conversation with your dad reminding him that the furnace needs repair. When you talk to him the next time, he’s forgotten. Try posting notes around the house as reminders, or make the appointment yourself then call him the morning of the appointment to tell him the repairmen are on their way.
- “You never feel good.” Elderly people often start conversations talking about their failing health. Listen patiently, and if it’s something new, suggest a course of action. If you’ve heard the same complaints, listen anyway, then re-direct the conversation when you have a chance.
Compassion goes a long way when dealing with seniors. In addition to failing health and waning independence, their memories are beginning to falter. Put yourself in their shoes and consider your words carefully before speaking.