Many people have an important elderly loved one in their lives, and they may not realize that healthy communication with this person could dictate their wellness and quality of life for years to come. If they don’t have good communication with family members or caregivers, they could end up feeling isolated and unloved as time goes on.
The good news is that most elders want to remain a part of the conversation and feel in control of their own lives, even as physical and mental impairments occur. They need to know that their loved ones care about them and are doing all they can to help, and that the things they are being asked to do are designed to make their lives more comfortable.
Sadly, the normal aging process often causes communication barriers to form, including declining sensory and cognitive abilities, lessened lucidity, increased dependency on medication, and loss of personal and social ties. In addition, the fear of losing independence can lead to resistance to accepting the need for help and support.
While the pandemic has pushed us to limit contact with senior citizens, it’s also given some of our caregivers the opportunity to focus on the importance of meaningful, healthy communication with our elderly patients. It’s been found that seniors who communicate regularly with their loved ones and trusted connections are generally healthier and happier than those who don’t. This is because a healthy connection with others promotes better emotional well-being and a sense of belonging, and can lower the risk of depression and other mental health issues.
Elders who have regular communication with their family members and other caregivers are also more likely to receive prompt assistance when they need it, and they’re more likely to report a sense of wellbeing. They’re also more likely to live longer than those who don’t communicate regularly with their loved ones.
While it’s tempting to get into arguments with older adults when they don’t understand something or disagree, this is rarely productive. It can actually lead to hard feelings between the patient and caregiver, which can be detrimental to both parties in the long run. Instead, you should try to avoid these types of confrontations and focus on active listening. That means letting your elderly loved ones speak without interruption, maintaining eye contact when they do, and using body language that shows you are engaged with them. You should also be aware that some seniors have vision and hearing impairments, so you should avoid using excessive amounts of jargon or speaking loudly to ensure they can hear and understand you. You should also ask them how they would like to be addressed, as some may prefer their first names while others might prefer to be referred to by title or surname. If they have trouble seeing, be sure common areas and individual living spaces are well-lit and consider offering visual aids, if needed. You should also make sure that they are seated where they can see your facial expressions and read your body language.