Two weeks ago, Home Instead Senior Care sponsored Challenges of Communication between Older Adults and their Children – a Webinar that is part of the Family Caregiver Support Series offered through the American Society on Aging.
The key points are below. My intent in publishing these notes is to provide you with an opportunity to also reflect upon your own experiences. Mine are in italics. Together we will improve how we communicate with loved ones or help our clients with their communications.
The original article has been divided into two–this is the second part. Read Part I here, which includes WHEN & HOW to Open Lines of Communication and Difficult Topics to discuss such as –
- moving from the family home,
- money and finances,
- driving, and
- health issues.
Dr. D’Aprix offers four approaches we can take when communicating with our parents.
- Move toward solutions that provide maximum independence for your elder parent.
Assure him/her that this is your intent.
- Be aware of how you speak to your parent.
Regardless of how your parent responds or if s/he does not respond at all, you’re speaking to an adult; not a child.
- Look for the answers that optimize strengths and desires.
Give your parent the assurance that you would like to work with him/her.
- Not everything needs to be solved right away.
I slowed down to my father‘s slower and more methodical pace (not an easy thing to do). This helped him to feel more comfortable and to trust that I was there to help him.
Dr. D’Aprix reminds us to place ourselves in our parents’ shoes. How would we want to be addressed?
I recommend taking her advice one step further and asking yourself:
How would I want to be treated if I had the same disease or illness my loved one has? This last part offers a significant difference in the way we care for our loved ones when we consider the fears and uncertainties that accompany cognitive impairment.
For more tips, please visit Tips for Caregivers.
Dr. D’Aprix also refers to the T.E.M.P.O. Method. She says we’ll be more successful in helping our loved ones if we are successful in each of these five elements.
- Timing –make sure to have enough time and to be patient.
- Experience – family members can be more successful in getting a parent to do something if they tie in their request with their own experience. I asked my father to let me go through his paperwork before he died. He asked if I knew something he didn’t as he planned to live until 100. I explained I didn’t want to have questions about something I’d find after he was no longer here to answer. He accepted.
- Motivation – safety, well-bring, and quality of life for loved one.
- Place – creating a safe place from the elder’s point of view for having conversations (Dr. Amy warns that the holidays or other celebration where everyone is together is not a good time or place to have a discussion as this may feel threatening to your parent.)
- Outcome – get and share information over time. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.
For more information visit Talk early … Talk often. [Updated 10/30/2017: Link to this website no longer functional.]
BARRIERS and HOW to OVERCOME THEM
My father was profoundly deaf. Fortunately, I am half deaf and could empathize. I faced him when I spoke and articulated my words clearly to help him make sense of each word. I watched the shapes his lips made to better understand his words and he did the same while listening to me.
Vision Loss As Alzheimer’s destroyed more of my father’s brain; he worked harder and harder at trying to recognize me. I made it fun for him by recounting his family history.
“Remember when you married that fun-loving girl you met in Chicago?”
“Remember after your son was born you bought a home and moved to Milwaukee? Then you had two girls–the last was born on your forty-ninth birthday.”
Although, he didn’t remember, he smiled and enjoyed listening.
Age-related Memory Loss
My father stopped remembering where I lived, who I was, how many children he had. He began talking about another son. I almost believed I had another brother; but played along and asked him to describe my other brother. He thought it strange for me to ask such a question but described him as “the guy who hangs around with” my real brother.
The relationship reverses. As our parents lose their abilities and struggle with loss of independence, we become the ones who are stronger and in our prime. We need to be sensitive to these differences when communicating with our parents.
I always asked my father questions. Even when he could no longer manage his own affairs, and I could easily sign for him as his court-appointed conservator, I went through the trouble to have him sign his own checks and other legal documents. I believe these actions were comforting to him and gave him the feeling he was still in control.
By taking time to write my notes and share them with you, I am able to better digest Dr. D’Aprix’s lessons and to integrate them in my communications with clients. JOIN ME and learn more by posting your experiences below then sharing this with others. Together we will improve how we care for loved ones.
Brenda Avadian, MA
Former Caregiver, Founder, & Editor
Dr. Amy D’Aprix is the Executive Director of the DAI Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to meet the needs of caregivers. She is also President of Dr. Amy Inc., a company dedicated to Family Caregiver Wellness by providing access to information and education, services, support with emotional and family issues, and legal and financial support. She holds a PhD and Masters in Social Work, specializing in Gerontology, and earned her CSA (Certified Senior Advisor) – a designation for which she also trains others, as part of their accreditation.
Mary Alexander, Director of Business Relationships with Home Instead Senior Care Corporation, actively manages strategic partnerships with companies, associations and organizations whose products, services and programs help franchise owners grow their businesses. She and her team’s foci encompass long-term care insurance companies, hospitals, health care organizations, work/life balance opportunities and senior industry leaders.