Senior Caregiver Tip: What Not to Say to Someone Facing a Health Concern

If you’re a senior caregiver for a loved one, try to avoid these common statements.

Have you ever walked into the office or a get-together with friends or family and had a person say to you with great concern, “You really look tired today!” Although you may have been feeling relatively perky up until that moment, unexpectedly you actually DO feel worn out and rundown. The words we speak to others and also the manner by which we interpret them are powerful. So if you’re a senior caregiver, or even just speaking with individuals who have a chronic health condition, it’s crucial that you carefully think about what to express, and possibly more importantly, what NOT to say, in order to help the person feel his or her best.

While we are most certainly well-meaning, there are specific comments which are better left unsaid. Making a less-than-sensitive comment, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, happens because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”

Following are several remarks  to remove from your vernacular when communicating with those struggling with a medical crisis:

  1. “My friend had a similar diagnosis and was sick for months.” Sharing unfavorable stories about someone with the same diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. Alternatively, remember each person deals with health issues in different ways, and focus on the positives the individual you’re talking with has achieved.
  2. “If you’d only stopped smoking (or exercised; or followed a healthy eating plan; etc.) this wouldn’t have happened.” It is impossible to know whether the result may have been different if healthier choices had been made, and there’s no benefit to playing “what if.” Focus instead on giving the support and compassion the individual needs right now, and leave any feelings of judgment at the door.
  3. “Do you recall…?” Specific to individuals with dementia or other cognitive impairment, memory prompts like this can add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Discussing news from times gone by as if it’s just happened is a great technique to engage the individual instead.

Your best bet is to provide the person with the ability to share (or not to share) with you about his or her experiences and emotions, hold the individual’s hand if it’s welcome, provide a pretty bouquet of flowers or other small present or treat, and offer your affectionate, loving presence and encouragement.

For more care tips, or for hands-on assistance with skilled care within the convenience of home, call on Harmony Home Health & Hospice, the top-rated provider of elderly care in Salt Lake City, UT and nearby areas. We offer high quality, caring assistance for individuals experiencing a health situation that provides comfort and peace, through a full range of home health services. Give us a call at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE (1-877-463-3322) to let us share more about how we can help, and visit our Service Area page to see all of the areas we serve.