Senior Living



Dear Doug: Communication Setbacks

Doug Mayberry on

Q: It's getting harder and harder for our family to talk to my dad. He's in his early 90s and still up and moving, but he's no longer on top of it.

Our main problem is that he doesn't make sense. He starts talking about topics without any introduction, so we spend several minutes in confusion. He also doesn't seem to listen to our responses consistently.

Even when we seem to be communicating well, we might find out 10 minutes later that we were talking about two entirely different things. It's very frustrating!

How can we talk to each other more effectively?

A: Be patient, and ask questions.

Slow down when necessary. Cognitive decline is a natural part of aging but very frustrating for all involved. Being patient will allow you the opportunity to understand each other a little better.


Consider that hearing issues may be a contributing factor.

When seniors can't hear well, many often blindly agree to whatever you say. Hearing problems can be frustrating or embarrassing, and many people often underplay the severity of their hearing loss.

While this may make the conversation move forward fluidly, it can be hard to know if you actually understand each other.

Don't be afraid to repeat a question or ask for clarification. If you're not sure what he's talking about, ask for confirmation. Making sure that you're on the same page early on will help you avoid long, awkward silences.


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