Caring for and having
positive relationships with seniors requires communicating effectively with
them. Here are some tips to help you communicate well with your elderly family
1. Empathise and
develop mutual understanding
with your loved one, it’s important to try to understand each other better and
work towards mutual understanding. Having an open mind and remembering to empathise
can go a long way in this process. Respect their perspectives, opinions and
feelings and understand their point of view by putting yourself in their shoes.
Sometimes, it can be
easy to lose patience and become frustrated with the elderly if they are slow,
forgetful or needy. If you do run out of patience, always take a time out and
talk to them when you’re in a calmer state of mind.
2. Be considerate
The elderly may have different
communication needs depending on their health conditions and surrounding
Speed and tone: Adjust the speed and tone of your speech
according to the elderly’s need. For instance, talk to those with dementia at a
slower pace and talk louder to those with hearing problems. At times, the elderly
may need you to repeat your statement several times. Slow down when repeating to
help them to catch what they may have missed previously.
An appropriate tone
also conveys patience and understanding, while being stern may cause your loved
one to feel wronged or scolded.
Sit face to face: Some seniors may suffer from hearing loss.
Sitting in front of them enables them to read your lips, facial expressions and
gestures and receive the information more clearly. Maintaining eye contact also
creates a more comfortable and trusting atmosphere.
Choice of words: The elderly may not be familiar with some of
the terms we use. Try to use words that are familiar, or use simple words to
convey the same meaning. For instance, use ‘take one fruit after each meal’
instead of ‘take more fibre’. Also, try to avoid long, complicated sentences as
information overload can confuse the elderly.
questioning: Sometimes your
loved one may not fully understand what you are saying. If so, try simplifying
the topic before asking leading, close-ended questions to understand their perspective.
Having them answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in those situations is easier than asking them
what they think.
3. Listen, don’t
There’s a difference
between hearing your loved one and listening to him/her. Listening requires
active concentration in interpreting what the other person is saying while
hearing is a passive intake of any surrounding sounds.
with your loved one, they could be trying to share their desires or needs with
you. We need to actively listen as these may not always be said directly or
explicitly. Avoid dominating the conversation and give them a chance to talk
and express themselves.
4. Be aware of
communication makes up the bulk of the communication process as our facial
expressions and gestures convey our attitudes. Eye contact, nods and some
physical contact can communicate attention, patience and understanding.
However, being distracted with your phone or other things around you can convey
disinterest and apathy. Remember to keep an open, kind and respectful attitude
when speaking with your loved one.
5. Be respectful
Most elderly want to
feel respected and maintain control of their life. You can validate their needs
by asking them questions and offering them options instead of ordering them on
what to do. This can be as simple as giving them options on what to eat,
instead of directing them on what they should eat.
Download the Carer app
and use it to hire an experienced nurse or care aide, or call us to find out
more. You can also read more tips on the Carer app.
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