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Article: COMMUNICATE OPENLY - Tips from Dr. Marion

Communicate Openly

Table of Contents
  1. Communicate Openly

By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Dr. Marion Tips


  1. Keep your sentences short and concise. Ask simple questions and wait for the answer before rushing to the next subject. You have to give your elder time to process and formulate answers. Limit your vocabulary and stay on one subject, one sentence at a time.


  2. Begin communication with a one-on-one discussion. Ask questions like "Tell me about your childhood, your children, your husband, your wife." Be careful of sending mixed messages or using slang that may not be understood. Ensure what you're saying is accurate. If it's not true, don't say it, and never exaggerate.


  3. You have two eyes and ears, and only one mouth, so observe and listen twice as much as you talk. Always make your elder the center of attention. Now is not the time to download your problems on to your elder. Start conversations with chit chat about your elder and the day. Be light, gentle, general, and discuss familiar topics, not the latest hit album.


  4. Be honest with yourself about your caregiving challenge. Caring for an elder loved one can be a stressful job. To have any chance at being a powerful caregiver, you have to be honest with yourself. What are you willing to sacrifice, if anything? Know your limitations, energy level, time constraints, family obligations, work commitments.


  5. Understand your elder's values. This is a good way to build trust. Your elder has to know that you understand his/her values, struggles, and identity. When that happens, barriers begin to melt.


  6. Don't judge, and don't arrive with baggage or preconceived notions. I never judge my clients. I know this is difficult to do, but just try, both for your sake and your elder's.


  7. Find the humor in any situation when possible. Believe me; your elder is full of humor and wisdom. You don't get your needs met for decades without learning how to laugh and how to get what you want. Caregiving is a chance to embrace your elder emotionally and to work together to find answers and harmony.


  8. Talk about positive memories and important people from your elder's life. Being a caregiver is all about making your elder feel good and establishing a rapport. Find something positive that will increase your bond. If the only fond memory you have is of mom's chocolate chip cookies, let her know how much you loved them. Honor who she is and who she was.


  9. If past conflicts arise, face them directly to dissipate the unease. Be extra sensitive about how you bring up unresolved history. Doing so can cause your elder to tune you out or become upset. What happened in the past happened, and people have their own perspective of events. Your elder can become entrenched, and that's no position to be in now.


  10. Allow your elder to discuss his/her deepest thoughts. Facilitate open, honest dialogue. Allow your elder's feelings to surface. Never try to suppress things he/she wants to discuss. This time is usually filled with reflection and new understanding, and your elder will probably want to talk to someone about it. That someone can be you.


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Last Updated on 5/24/2021