With Tact and Respect: Talking to a Senior About Changing Bad Habits

Article By: Kevin Wells of seniordiabetic.com


Senior Man

Most of us develop bad habits during the course of our lives. The longer we have them, the harder they are to get rid of. It’s never easy to confront an unhealthy habit, no matter what age you are. For seniors, making a positive change may require the gentle, loving support of those closest to them. Family and friends who know how to talk to a senior loved one on an intimate level can sometimes make a difference. The key is to communicate with tact and respect.

Go Easy

Taking a harsh stance and using negative language is likely to be self-defeating and will only make an older relative resentful and resistant. So, it’s important to adopt a positive tone instead. For example, try talking to an older parent about kicking the smoking habit by telling them how badly you want them to see your children grow up. Explain the importance of the role they’ll play in your children’s lives and that you don’t want the dangers of smoking to get in the way. Offer to help them beat the habit in any way they’d like.

Let It Sink In

Don’t make things worse by rubbing your message in; let it sink in gradually. Sometimes, a period of self-reflection can make a tremendous difference once the validity of your plea has had time to sink in. Giving your loved one time to think about it can be beneficial because they won’t feel coerced, or threatened, which is an especially important point for individuals who have a great deal of pride and a history of self-sufficiency.

Try Meditation

If your loved one seems agitated or resentful, suggest that you try meditating together. In fact, you can dedicate a section of their home to meditation, which will give them a place or quiet and serenity to escape to — all you need to do is keep it organized, make it comfortable, and keep it away from distractions. If you encounter skepticism, ask if he’ll join you in a deep-breathing exercise, which may make him more amenable to meditation. Choose a quiet area: Your efforts will be more effective if you meditate in a relaxing space that’s conducive to quiet reflection.

Use Humor Where Possible

Using casual humor can alleviate the tension that can arise from a difficult discussion. Look for opportunities to use a humorous anecdote from your relative’s past, something the two of you shared. Anything you can do to create a bonding experience will make it easier to pursue the matter of your relative’s unhealthy habit.

Responding to Anger

Older individuals sometimes lash out in anger and frustration when they feel forced to confront an unpleasant subject. They may feel ashamed or worried about their behavior and, for that reason, might have chosen to avoid it altogether. Don’t confront your loved one in anger; instead, gently explain how their reaction is affecting you emotionally and that you’re just trying to be helpful because you care. If they react abusively, remind them that you don’t deserve such an intemperate and offensive response and that they’re being unreasonable.

Remember Who You’re Talking To

Sometimes, people adopt a patronizing tone with a senior relative. Don’t fall into the habit of scolding or treating your loved one. Try to remember that this individual deserves your respect, even if they’re behaving irrationally. Bear in mind that their reactions and what you take to be stubbornness may simply be a product of fear and a reluctance to make a difficult change.

It can be very hard for older adults to make a major lifestyle change, even if it’s a beneficial one. Be sympathetic and, above all, be encouraging. Yelling, blaming, and threatening is the wrong approach to take with a senior who needs and deserves your respect and patience, even if they don’t seem to know what’s good for them.

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