What NOT to Say to Your Aging Parents

Author: Scott Sutherland

There’s probably not an adult alive who won’t confess to their parents driving them bananas during childhood and adolescence! Our parents usually live to embarrass us during those years! As we become adults, the tables begin turning as our parents start aging, and in some cases, we even become caretakers for parents who begin having cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer’s. It can be tough on everybody when seniors know they have memory loss and can’t do anything about it. Even though they may seem checked out, it’s SO important to be careful of what we say around them. Here are a few tips to help you remember what NOT to say to your aging parents.

1. “This isn’t hard—why are you struggling to do this?”

No matter what age you are, nobody wants to be talked down to or made to feel they aren’t performing tasks normally. Many seniors will struggle with even basic tasks during these years and remarks like this just go to deepen their sense of rejection and frustration. The better alternative would be to exercise patience and explain things differently or write out instructions for tasks they may forget. A patient word goes a long way here.

2. “You’ve already told me that.” or “We’ve already been through this.”

By nature, aging seniors often become forgetful. If they have been diagnosed with cognitive decline, you will most likely hear them repeating things over and over again. While this can be frustrating, try to keep in mind that they don’t remember telling you the same thing, so for them, it seems like fresh information. Often, family members with dementia hold dear to their memories and like to talk about them with those they love. For them, this is therapeutic. Just be kind and smile as you listen to that memory—again! Find some humor here—it’s good for everyone!

3. “How can you not remember your own family member’s name?”

All of us struggle to remember names at times, and your parents are different. If they suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s remembering names becomes stressful. Even their own child’s name. Don’t take this personally or correct them in a sarcastic tone. Gently remind them who is who and move on.

4. “What does this have to do with anything?”

If your parents bring up seemingly random stories that have nothing to do with the current conversation, you must remember that they often have a reason, even if we have no idea what it is. In this situation, you can try asking them what made them think of that particular story or memory. They will probably be able to tell you once you patiently ask what their thought process was.

5. “I want your money/heirloom/house when you die.”

It might seem obvious but saying a line like this is NOT the way to bring up a will or possible inheritance. As parents age, the adult children often begin wondering what they will get when the parent dies. While it’s ok to have that conversation, it should never be done in an insensitive manner. Nobody wants to think people are just waiting for them to die so they can get their money or possessions. Sometimes common sense goes a long way here!

Along with what not to say, here are a couple of things not to do when you are with your aging parents.

Don’t speak for them

Don’t talk over your parents or try to speak for them. This is especially true when you are at a doctor visit or talking to a member of their care team. Unless your parent cannot speak for themselves, you should never communicate for them unless it is a crisis. Your parents need to retain the right to speak for themselves and maintain their dignity and control for as long as possible.

Don’t “play along” with memory loss

It’s not uncommon for seniors with dementia to become confused. They may think they are in a different period of life or that they can call a loved one who passed away years ago. It’s very important not to play along in these cases. Doing this will only go to confuse their sense of reality. It might seem easier to just play along, but it is not a healthy thing to do. Instead, gently remind them of the facts they are confused about.

Contact us today for more tips on communicating with aging parents!

Home Helpers of Dallas is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, 24-hour live-in care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Dallas, Richardson, Garland, Plano, Highland Park, University Park, Mesquite, Allen, Carrollton, Irving, Addison, Farmers Branch, Lake Highlands, Duncanville, Desoto, Fairview, Cedar Hill, and McKinney, Texas.

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