How to keep calm with older relatives

We all think it sometimes, but often we don’t actually say it, that our elderly relatives can drive us completely crazy,  We love them, but when you have  heard the same  story about Aunt Mary pouring wine in the cat’s bowl again and again, it can start to grate and it’s hard to keep calm. The repetitions, the forgetfulness, the incessant asking of the same questions can mean we get to a point when we can’t control ourselves and we blurt out sharp impatient words, when when we don’t mean to do so.

How to stay controlled and calm

Older people usually recognise that their memory and cognitive and physical abilities are declining, and they may find reminders about this from others hurtful and unnecessary. When you feel you are losing your patience, try to remember how bad it must feel for them knowing their memory is slipping away,  how scary this must be and try to think of other ways of responding

Here are some practical tips:

Dealing with someone wandering off the subject 

One minute you may discussing with the new plants  you had planted in your garden at home your relatives, and the next they talking about  is a problem with their living room lighting! Conversations with older people often go off track, because they can’t keep their mind on the subject, or they are simply bored. If the conversation is important, try to bring them back on track gently, without pointing a finger at the lack concentration. Or just say nothing and let them control the flow of conversation.

Trying not to scold your older relative if they don’t remember to do something

Older people often lose their short term memory sooner than they lose long-term memory, so they tend to forget all kinds of things important things, such as where they put their glasses or their keys, or of conversations you had with them reminding them to do something important.  So when your relative has no recollection of  the  of these things, try not to be don’t too surprised  and try not to get frustrated and angry.

Instead, give them a visual or written reminder using post-it notes and adding a nice comment or a smiley face to keep the tone light and positive. If you know someone else is going to see them before you do, you could ask them to remind them too.

Showing your older relative how something works calmly

It’s very frustrating when you have spent ages showing a relative how to do something and they immediately forget how to do it. This is particularly common when trying to show them some new technology, which you know will really useful for them, such as using a Kindle with large print to read or a tablet they can use to Skype family and friends for conversation. Gadgets with many buttons and options can pose a challenge for most of us and cause huge frustration, so imagine how it feels for someone whose cognition or eyesight is failing and whose fingers aren’t as nimble as they use to be.

The first thing to try and do is to stay calm. Keep instructions simple and concentrate on the main thing they need to achieve. Don’t try to impart too much information in one session. You can also try:

  • colour coding buttons or features with pens or stickers and leave a chart for reference of what each colour means
  • drawing a diagram of the controls and write down what each element controls.
  • writing out step by step instructions for them to follow, ideally typed out in large print

So if you are getting in a difficult situation with older relatives, take a deep breath, try not to get frustrated and stay calm. Remember, It s not really their fault and they can be as stressed about it as you are.

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