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Caregiving tips: how to communicate better with my elderly parents?

Uploaded On: 26 May 2021

Communication with elderly parents can be challenging because of their decline in memory, reduced ability to process information, hearing or sight impediments, and sometimes even separation from their friends or a community in Singapore. As such, learning effective methods to communicate with your elderly parents is one of the best ways to overcome these difficulties and encourage productive conversation. From preparing the conversation, using your body language to express yourself, to actively showing you care, we share just 5 tips that can make a positive change for your interactions.

1. Ease into the conversation

Preparing yourself and your elderly parent for a conversation makes a huge difference in setting the tone throughout. You don’t want to jump into an important conversation when they are distracted or busy with another task. Instead, you want them to pause what they are doing as well as be ready to listen to and communicate with you. To do this, you can lead in with gentle questions like, “Can I speak to you about…?” or “Do you mind if I ask you about …?” You can even move the conversation to a quieter location, or a place with fewer distractions so that both of you can focus on your conversation.

Read: A Guide to Caring for Your Elderly Loved Ones

2. Sit face to face

As your elderly parent might have trouble hearing well, it is important that you have a conversation with them face-to-face when you can. This allows them to read your lips to pick up on what you are saying better, as well as understand your tone and intention from your body language. Instead of moving around the house as you speak, standing behind them or by their side, you want to face them directly, maintain eye contact and use your body language to show that you are listening.

This could mean nodding your head, smiling at appropriate times, and using open body posture like exposing your palms, uncrossing your legs or leaning forward. Remember, a face-to-face conversation can help you to be understood with greater clarity, as well as gives you the opportunity to show that you are listening.

3. Allow them extra time

An elderly person takes a longer time to process information and recall events – so be patient in waiting for their reply. A good rule of thumb is to give them twice as much time as you might take to answer the question. This way, you can keep the conversation calm and productive, rather than cause feelings of stress and frustration for both parties.

4. Simplify your message

Simplify a complex message by breaking it down into shorter sentences or going through one topic at a time. For example, instead of saying, “The doctor said that you must eat your medicine right before bed and take your medicine together with these other pills”, you could say, “Take these pills together right before bed”. Also avoid medical jargon and use terms that your parents will be able to understand.

5. Get better with caregiver training

Elderly care is a challenging task, but one that can be made manageable with the proper skills and support. Nursing homes like Orange Valley in Singapore offer courses for those caring for their elderly parents on a day-to-day basis. There are four modules in the training course:

  • Personal hygiene and waste management
  • Movement and transfer, fall and pressure ulcers prevention
  • Oral feedings and medication management
  • Communication with care recipient; Management of caregiver’s self-care, care information and support services

Aside from picking up practical tips on how you can improve on your communication skills, also be open to receiving help from others. You might consider elderly day care for your parents, in which your parents spend time at the nursing home in the day and return home in the evening. This not only allows you time to rest, it also gives your elderly parent the opportunity to be part of a community. Under the safe and professional care of the nursing home caregivers, your parents will get socialised, play games as well as engage in activities with others.

Interested to learn more about elderly day care? Read more about Orange Valley Longevity Day Care or get in touch with our friendly team on our website!