Listening is an essential part of good communication

Discover The Top Five Benefits Of Listening To Your Senior Loved One And How You Can Improve Your Communication With Them

Do you find it hard to pay attention when your senior loved one talks to you? Perhaps it seems as if they repeat themselves endlessly or inundate you with unwanted advice. Pegasus senior care professionals in Shadow Hills and elsewhere have discovered benefits of listening even when it’s difficult.

It’s easy to let your mind wander when someone is speaking. Perhaps you aren’t particularly interested in the person or the conversation. More often, you’re busy thinking up a response to what’s being said.

Attentive Listening Validates The Speaker

When you’re listening actively, you’re focused on the speaker. You’re aware of body language, the tone of voice, and subtle word choices or expressions. In short, you’re giving the person your full attention.

That leads to the first benefit of listening to your senior loved one. Focusing your attention on someone when they are speaking is a way of validating them. You have given the gift of yourself.

It’s a two-sided benefit. As seniors feel they’re being heard, communication as a whole improves. Better communication invariably leads to a better relationship.

The second benefit of listening is also advantageous to both you and your loved one. Seniors often become isolated and lonely. Carrying on a thoughtful conversation with them provides needed companionship.

You and they convey respect for each other when you make time to truly share. You can relate as individuals rather than as the parent/child or other roles that you’ve always filled. In addition, you’ll find it easier to be patient, especially during stressful times.

The indisputable fact that your elder has lived longer than you gives you the benefit of their experience. Experience leads to knowledge and wisdom. Although their times were different, they’ve struggled through many of the same kind of challenges you face now.

Conflicts with friends and family members have existed since time immemorial. Making career and other financial choices don’t skip generations. Illness and death touch everyone.

Discussing life factors such as these with your senior allows you to tap into their experience and wisdom. Naturally, many of their suggestions won’t be solutions that work for you. But they often know more than you think they know and can surprise you with their practical advice.

When you listen to the stories your loved one tells you, you gain the benefit of knowing your history. Everything they did or didn’t do during their lifetime resulted in you. Their experiences and the decisions they made are part of who you are.

Ask questions about what they did and the reasons why they made a particular choice. Listen attentively to the answers. You may be rewarded with stories not previously revealed or secrets.

Their secrets are part of your history. Additionally, talking about their secrets can help seniors heal from past wrongs.

Life Has Given Seniors Perspective

Elders can bestow the benefit of perspective for younger individuals. They have survived every calamity. They know that regardless of the seriousness of things that you too can survive.

Many seniors also worried daily when they were your age. But as they’ve matured, they have become more able to consider the future.

Your loved one can offer advice that blends past, present, and future. They’re aware of long-term realities, yet able to retain optimism. By challenging your assumptions about how things have to be, they give you a new perspective for coping.

Listening Skills Are Essential For Good Communication

Listening skills can be developed. Following are some ways you and your senior loved one can improve your ability to communicate effectively:

  • Refrain from dismissing how the other feels
  • Recognize and name emotions
  • Avoid the accusatory “you think this” or “you did that”
  • Encourage truthful and open expression
  • Keep the conversation flowing by asking open-ended questions, rather than questions that can be answered yes or no
  • Allow each other time to think and reflect
  • At all costs, do not interrupt each other

Techniques such as these make you both feel listened to and validated.

You can still implement these techniques even if your senior loved one has dementia. Additional ways you can try to improve communication include the following:

  • Use a tone of respect rather than “talking down” or using baby talk
  • Address them by their name, rather than a pseudo-affectionate term like sweetie
  • If their attention wanders, try a gentle touch to regain it
  • Unless you know they are hard of hearing, avoid raising your voice
  • Speak clearly and avoid slang or expressions with which an older person may not be familiar
  • Don’t talk over or around them as if they weren’t present
  • Make eye contact

An intelligent person still exists deep inside a person with dementia. You never know when that intelligence will briefly shine through. Respectful speaking and attentive listening will keep you from missing those gems of clarity.

Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We provide personalized senior care at Shadow Hills and our other locations. We’re here to listen.