Engaging in stimulating conversation benefits people of all ages, including the elderly. But sensory losses associated with aging can keep older adults from communicating effectively with others. For some, those communication barriers ultimately place their freedom and independence at risk. As an informal caregiver, talking with a senior loved one in a meaningful way is essential for their continued health and wellbeing. Using these communication tips should make the process go more smoothly.
How Aging Affects Communication
As the body ages sensory changes commonly occur that interfere with communication. Seniors that have trouble communicating their thoughts oftentimes become frustrated, confused and even afraid. Communication challenges facing the elderly are usually attributed to:
- Hearing impairment. An estimated 40% of all individuals aged 75+ live with significant hearing loss. Left untreated, hearing impairment can diminish a senior’s ability to engage in stimulating conversation. Hearing aids are one solution for this common problem.
- Vision loss. Many hearing-impaired individuals who rely on lip-reading deal have trouble understanding others due to poor vision.
- Stroke. Stroke victims oftentimes face speech and language impairments afterwards. In some cases, those stroke aftereffects can be significant and permanent.
- Dementia. Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s or other age-related factors can interfere with a senior’s ability to communicate effectively.
How to Converse with an Older Adult
Engaging in stimulating, meaningful conversation with an elderly loved one is possible when taking these steps:
Minimizing distractions and background noise will allow both of you to concentrate on what the other is trying to say. Before starting a discussion turn off the TV and put away your phone.
Sitting directly across from or next to an older adult will help eliminate distractions and let them know that they have your undivided attention.
Maintain eye contact
Show your loved one that you’re interested in what they’re saying by looking them in the eye during the entire conversation. Establishing and maintaining eye contact also allows someone who’s hard-of-hearing to read your lips and facial expressions more easily.
Be an active listener
Listening attentively and actively is possibly the most often-overlooked aspect of effective communication. Maintaining eye contact, sitting face-to-face and verbally validating what you’ve heard are all essential qualities that an active listener should have.
When conversing with an elderly adult speak at a volume and pace that they can understand. If they have sensory problems find ways to overcome those. For example, if your loved one is having trouble hearing or comprehending what you’re trying to say, write the message down. You can also use other visual aids- like flash cards or pictures- to get your point across.
Being impatient or inattentive sends the wrong message to your loved one. If you’re having trouble getting them to understand, repeat yourself without getting frustrated or irritated. It’s important to remember that their reactions may be a little slower than what you’re used to. You’ll have better luck when you patiently slow down and repeat yourself.
Discuss topics that interest them
Pick a topic or two that might interest your senior, like sports, old movies, crafts or hobbies. Then start a meaningful conversation by bringing those topics up. If you don’t know much about a topic that they’re interested in do some research before your next visit.
Showing old photos to someone with dementia is a great way to rekindle old memories and spark healthy discussions. Sharing the latest news about your kids is another sure-fire method for starting a stimulating conversation with an aging loved one.
Communicating with Seniors is Our Specialty
At First In Care, we know how important effective communication can be when caring for an aging in place loved one. That’s why our skilled caregivers are well trained on the latest communication techniques, including those for seniors with dementia and sensory losses. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency our family trusted services include respite care, companionship care, personal care, medication reminders, transportation and even 24-hour care.
Our compassionate professionals use a unique caregiving approach that keeps seniors aging safely and comfortably at home while maintaining their dignity, independence and self-esteem. For your added convenience and peace of mind we offer flexible programs and affordable rates for aging in place seniors in Manatee County, FL. To learn more about First In Care now, please visit us at: www.firstincare.com!