How to Talk to an Elderly Parent

Talking to an elderly parent espcially with one who has hearing loss or dementia can be difficult. You may notice the conversation does not flow as easily as before. Or maybe you say the same information over and over before a parent seems to hear or even understand you. In addition, mom or dad may become increasingly agitated about questions or suggestions you offer.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting elderly adults. In fact, approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss. And, nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia symptoms usually first appear in people in their mid-60s. While estimates vary, the NIH suggests more than 5 million Americans may have the disease.

Both hearing loss and memory loss can make it hard to talk to an elderly parent. Here are some tips to help you better communicate.


If your elderly parent has hearing loss:


Tell friends and family about the hearing loss. Don’t assume everyone will know your parent is hard of hearing.

Face your parent when you speak. This will allow your parent to see your facial expressions and help them to better understand you.

Speak louder but do not shout. You don’t have to talk more slowly, just more clearly.

Turn off the television or radio. When speaking with your parent remove all distractions or background noises to create a quieter environment.


If your elderly parent has dementia:


Don’t exclude your parent. Those with memory loss still want to feel like they are part of the family and conversation.

Take time to listen. Set aside enough time in your day to truly listen to your parent. Give them time to respond.

Be patient. Don’t interrupt or finish a parent’s sentences unless you are asked for help in finding the right words.

Don’t argue. Don’t disagree with a person who has memory loss. Always go along with what they are saying. Learn to let things go.

Laugh. Humor can lighten the mood and makes the conversation easier.

Maintain eye contact. This shows that you care about the person and what they are saying.

Ask questions the right way. Only ask questions with a yes/no answer. For example, “Would you like a cup of tea?” instead of, “What would you like to drink?”



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