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When Talking to an Aging Parent Becomes More Difficult

Elderly Care in Wayland MA

The family has heard the same story about the time their parent met Frank Sinatra one too many times. They’ve memorized the anecdote about the time their dad was stranded in a blizzard and a perfect stranger, maybe even a guardian angel, rescued him. When the conversation heads that way for the tenth time, half of the family members are making excuses to leave the table.

It’s tempting to think of parents as the hard-nosed, thick-skinned referees of our youth. But age brings with it challenges that all of us that get there will face. Children may think their parents are unaware of their own decline, but, in most cases, parent’s are very aware and filled with feelings of inadequacy and sadness.


Yes, the family may be able to recite the story verbatim, but it’s important to listen. Patience is a virtue, and one that children of aging parents will no doubt be tested on. Instead of mentally going through a list of “to-dos” while the parent is speaking, pay attention. On some level, every one of us knows when someone is listening or just going through the motion. The ability to communicate effectively may diminish with age, but the desire to be heard does not.

The Way not the Words

It’s said that 90% of communication is non-verbal. But what does that really mean? It means that if a family member is grinding their teeth while telling mom or dad how happy they are to see them and maybe they should consider picking up around the house more is not what mom or dad heard. “I’m really not happy to be here and you’re a slob,” was the unspoken message. Have the patience of a saint. Is that word sounding redundant? It’s one of the most important words one will learn and should carry with them at all times when communicating with an elderly parent.

Keep close attention to what’s going though your mind as you’re speaking. Stay in the moment. “One minute of patience, ten years of peace.” – Greek proverb.


There are a million emotions that are bound to arise when attempting to communicate with an aging parent. Anger: “I just told you yesterday how to check your email.” Disappointment: “You missed your appointment, again?” Confusion: “Don’t change the subject. We were discussing your nephew, not the NFL.” Conversations can become unpredictable as the aging mind losses focus. The problems start when one expects what was instead of allowing what is. The river doesn’t flow upstream and older parents are not going to suddenly strike up a conversation like the old days. Bullying will not help and may leave scars that last a lifetime. Consistently reminding one’s self that every day is a gift and that love is the bottom line will help create a foundation of peace and understanding.

If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Metrowest Boston, MA, call Griswold Home Care and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (781) 559-0073