Nov 15, 2017 by Comfort Keepers of Riverside and Corona
Being a caregiver to an aging parent can be a fulfilling role for many adult children. Even if you are not providing the care yourself, it’s a chance to return all of the love and care they gave you growing up.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges – in fact, there are many. One common one that is important to tackle from the start is ineffective communication.
It can be difficult trying to talk to a stubborn and resistant parent about their health and receiving care, especially if they have dementia or other debilitating conditions.
Luckily, there are some strategies that can help foster effective and comfortable communication:
To be blunt, you’re not always going to get it your way here. You have to pick and choose your battles on what’s worth discussing or even arguing about, and what’s worth letting go.
For example, if your mother has dementia and she likes to tell the same story over and over, there’s no point in saying, “You already told me this story.” She can’t remember that, and it will only make her embarrassed. Instead, listen patiently and be glad that she remembers this memory so vividly and can retell it.
This is especially true when it comes to the medical side of things. You can do so much more than just answering the questions your parent raises about their health or their care – educating them as much as possible on aging in general can greatly benefit them. Research their condition(s), other conditions, and general health concerns for seniors so that you both are on top of it all.
However, do be more passive when it comes to enforcing tasks or talking about something difficult. Nothing is more negative than someone telling us “you need to do this” or “you should be doing that.”
The same applies here – it sets a bad tone for the conversation from the beginning. Instead, make gentler statements like, “I want to help you with this” or “I am concerned with that.”
While your parent may have tried scaring you about things as a form of “encouragement” in your younger years (“If you don’t eat all of your dinner, you won’t get dessert” kind of statements), this doesn’t mean you should do that to them now.
For example, saying, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to end up in a nursing home” is going to cause fear and distrust rather than motivation. Avoid this method of speaking to them at all costs.
You may know more than them about what is needed for their care, but don’t flaunt it. Let them talk and encourage conversation by asking them questions and responding appropriately. This will help them retain a sense of independence, which will make them more agreeable in terms of receiving care they may otherwise fight.
It’s important to remember that while it may feel like the roles have reversed, you are still their child. Trying to show them otherwise will make them more resistant and agitated than anything.
It is possible – albeit difficult – to be a loving and supportive caregiver while still playing the role of their loving child. Finding the right balance will ensure your relationship with your parent is where it needs to be in terms of your bond and their care.
If you need further help with effective communication with your parent, consult their physician or geriatrician. They can give you advice, or connect you with resources that can help.