I have always believed our older generation mastered the art of conversation. Some grew up without television, radio, and telephones. Visiting with each other in person was what happened on front porches, in neighborhoods, and in homes.
As we age, conversation may not come as easily as it once did. Sometimes finding words might become difficult and frustrating. Other times it may be the environment we’re in. And still other times, it may be that we as caregivers, don’t have as much time to sit down and talk.
Here are ten tips for helping an older person join a conversation.
- If an older person is hard of hearing, make a special effort to talk precise and clear. My father is very hard of hearing and background noise seems to make it more difficult to listen to a conversation. If possible, turn off background noise such as a television, during moments of conversations. If your older family member or friend wears hearing aids make sure they are in proper working order.
- Speaking a bit slower may aid in understanding a conversation.
- Use fewer words, if possible, in helping him or her to understand.
- Ask open-ended questions for those who have difficulty in finding words.
- Use nonverbal communication to help in relaying messages and help a loved one to understand. Nonverbal communication can include facial expressions, eye contact, and gestures. Likewise, watch for your loved one’s nonverbal communication as an expression of him or herself.
- Use yes/no questions if a loved one has difficulty with words. Short answers may come more easily for him and decrease frustration.
- Seat a loved one within your circle of family/friends. Sit him or her close to you.
- Use their name occasionally so they know you are speaking to them.
- Make sure others within your circle include a loved one as well. Talk about something they know and understand. They can often feel left out of conversations when the topic is something they know nothing about.
- Make it a point to take moments during your day to sit and have meaningful conversations. Consider moments while in a loved one’s home, in the car on the way to grocery shopping, or when cooking a meal for her.