Talking With Aging Parents

18.Jan.2011by Karen in First Steps· 6 comments

Conversations with parents can be a challenge. There are the conversations that will focus on helping them with their personal needs. But there is also the opportunity to tap into their stories of yesteryear, helping them reminisce about their life.

A. Making conversations more meaningful by being a good listener

Conversations involve talking but not all talking is communication and not all communication is talking. A big part of communication is listening and all will benefit from improving listening skills. At some point as children slide into the new role of helping aging parents, they can lose perspective and begin parenting their parents, telling parents what to do.

One of the biggest hindrances in communications with aging parents is really us and our failure to listen. Listening is a skill and can be learned.

Good listening starts with an attitude of wanting to participate fully in the communicative situation. It encompasses a desire to listen and get as much as possible out of what is being said; a positive rather than a negative frame of mind; and an understanding approach to things and to people, that is, an approach in which there is a complete willingness to put yourself in the position of the speaker and try to understand his message. Listeners must not be self-centered, for good listening demands an active interest in others and in their ideas, feelings, and points of view.” — Oliver, Robert T., & Zelko, Harold P., & Holtzman, Paul D. (1962). Communicative Speech Third Edition. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 227

Learn more by exploring some excellent Tips for Listening.

B. Making conversations more meaningful by asking the right questions

In everyday conversations with your parents, there are ways to make the time more meaningful. It will require preparation on your part but it will be well worth the effort. Tap into the stories of your parents yesteryears. Learn how to assist them to remembering by using a bit of structure and asking questions that wouldn’t normally come up in a conversation. There are many ways to do this as suggested in the following links:

  1. Talking to Older Parents: How to have deeper conversations with your older mom or dad—and preserve family history too.
  2. Interviewing Relatives: Your Family Legacy
  3. Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews: What to Ask the Relatives

There are also published books listing interesting questions with space to record answers. The following links are samples of these:

C. Making conversations more meaningful by putting the focus on your parents

Talk now with aging parents about the future. It won’t get easier later. These statements form the outline for the best article I’ve read in my several years of researching information on communications with aging parents. I found it a little tricky to navigate their web site so list a recommended reading order below:

  1. Family Communication
  2. Talk to Elderly Parents about the Future
    1. Step 1 – Set the Tempo
    2. Step 2 – Become A Partner NOT their Parent
    3. Step 3 – Investigate Senior issues but avoid assumptions about your aging parents
    4. Step 4 – Research senior options for your parents by doing your homework before making any decisions.
    5. Step 5 – Invent new solutions for elderly issues and dealing with parents that uniquely work best for them.

Proverbs 23:22-25
22 Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
25 Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

The whole family will benefit if we take time to develop better communication skills particularly in the area of listening.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

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