Honesty is always the best policy, right? Even so, there are times when some truths are better left unsaid or at least worded more positively, especially when talking with aging loved ones. While we could have the best of intentions in wanting to help seniors navigate life, we are able to help prevent hurt feelings in our aging parents by rethinking statements such as the following:
- ”Don’t you remember…?” Short-term loss of memory is common in older adults, and pointing it out so bluntly can be belittling. As an alternative, try non-verbal techniques to help jog your loved one’s memory, such as strategically placing positive reminder notes throughout the house, like on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, TV remote, etc. If a verbal reminder would definitely be helpful, make sure you keep your tone light; and ask if the senior would really like anyone to assist, such as in scheduling a medical appointment on her behalf or picking up a prescription.
- “You’re not trying hard enough.” The reality is, many older adults develop physical or cognitive impairments that make once-simple tasks extremely challenging. It’s equally important never to take over tasks the person may still do, simply because it takes a bit longer to manage. Offering to serve as a partner in accomplishing an arduous task could be effective, such as asking the senior to manage part of the task as you tackle another part.
- “I know; you already told me.” It may be frustrating to listen to stories you’ve already heard more than once from an aging loved one, but it’s important to remain patient and offer the older adult the respect you would want if the tables were turned.
- “When you die, could I have…?” No one likes to feel as if their possessions are of such value that someone can’t wait to get their hands on them. In the event that the older adult does not have a will set up that defines his or her wishes, it’s certainly a good idea to get that taken care of, but give the person the freedom to decide to whom his or her belongings should be given.
- “Wake up!” Let go of any embarrassment you might have about your senior loved one falling asleep at inappropriate times, like during a movie, a religious service, or a concert. Altered sleep patterns, prescription medication side effects, among other factors, can make it difficult for some older adults to sleep well throughout the night.