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Opening The Lines of Communication With Your Elderly Relatives

Communication with aging relatives can put a strain on a relationship, especially if your relatives have moved into an assisted living facility. Being unable to live independently because of self-care or other health issues makes keeping the lines of communication open more of a challenge.

It's crucial as a caregiver, family member or friend to maintain a connection with them both as a way to nurture the relationship and to improve their quality of life.

Here are some steps to take to keep the lines of communication open:

  • Keep in mind that many age-related health issues such as a decline in physical abilities can make communication more difficult. If your relative is suffering a hearing loss it makes it even more difficult to talk. You need to be patient and speak more clearly. Make certain you are facing your relative when you're speaking. Consider providing them with an assistive listening device to improve communication.
  • Vision loss can also make it difficult for your relative to recognize you. Make certain they have regular eye exams and wear corrective lenses if necessary.
  • Give your relative the opportunity to reminisce. There will likely be stories you've heard before but giving them a chance to reminisce makes them feel part of the community. Remember too, that chances are your relative has experienced the loss of a loved one. Allow them to grieve. Grieving is a normal process and if your relative is unable to grieve it could lead to depression or social withdrawal.
  • Engage your relative in conversation by asking them their thoughts and feelings on particular topics. Remember that your relatives lived different lives than you have and have different background, values and knowledge to bring to the conversation.
  • Ask for their input. Don't simply assume that because your relative has a difficult time communicating that they don't have thoughts or insight they would like to share.

Caregivers need to practice patience when it comes to spending time and communicating with the elderly family members in their lives.