Have you ever had to continually repeat yourself to an elderly person? These situations can not only be frustrating, but also stressful and emotional. This is especially true if the elderly person is your parent or loved one.

Anyone who has ever cared for or spent time with the elderly knows the frustrations that can arise. Simple things that most of us take for granted can turn into monumental tasks that must be repeated over and over again.

What are the best ways to handle these situations? 

The first thing you can do is take a deep breath and try not to get overwhelmed by emotions. While you may feel upset or annoyed, try to put yourself in the elderly person’s shoes. If they begin to struggle or forget something, try to react with patience and understanding. Always look them in the eye and speak clearly and loudly, but avoid using a harsh or irritated tone.

10 more strategies you can put to use 

Don’t say: “How can you not remember that!?”

Say instead: “See this sticker? Dad, if the car isn’t inspected before the end of the month, we could have problems.” Place a few post-it notes on the car’s dashboard, the fridge and the bathroom mirror. Add a smiley face to keep the tone light. If you still think your parents might forget to do something, make the appointment yourself and then call your Dad that morning to remind him.

Don’t say: “You could do that if you really tried.” 

Say instead: “Let me watch and see where you’re having trouble so we can figure out how to get this done together.” Or, if you live out of town, “Ask (So-and-so) for help.” Seniors, like everyone else, want to maintain their independence. But if a project is truly beyond their capabilities, and they don’t know anyone who could help or won’t ask, you might want to try to find someone who can lend a hand.

Don’t say: “I just showed you how to use the remote control yesterday.”

Say instead: “The blue button on top turns the TV on and there’s one set of arrows for changing the channel and another for the volume. I’ll show you again.” Better yet, ask your parents’ cable or satellite provider to recommend a senior-friendly remote control with a simple design or purchase one at a local electronics store. If they’re OK with following instructions, you could write or print out step-by-step directions in large, legible type and leave them near the remote.

Don’t say: “What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?” 

Say instead: “I was telling you about the game last night, but it’s OK if you want to chat about something else.” If the subject is important to you, try to get the conversation back on track without pointing a finger at your parent (or whomever you’re talking to). To avoid suppressing genuine anger or sadness, gently explain why the conversation was important to you. Another option: Say nothing and just listen.

Don’t say: “You already told me that.”

Say instead: “No kidding? And don’t tell me that the next thing you did was … .” Yes, you can make a joke out of it, but only if your parents won’t feel hurt. Best-case scenario: Your Mom or Dad will feel amused and relaxed enough to join in and laugh.

Don’t say: “You’re too old to drive!”

Say instead: “I’d love to drive you, or how about we try walking and enjoying the fresh air instead? Your eyesight isn’t what it used to be—I want you to be safe.”

It can be a difficult feeling, knowing that you’re beginning to lose your ability to drive, which is a symbol of freedom for most people. Try to encourage the elderly people you know to consider alternatives and prioritize their safety.

Don’t say: “I should be in charge of your money.”

Say instead: “Would you be willing to let me help you with your finances? I’m no expert, but a lot has changed over the years and I might be able to help you figure some things out with your budget.” Don’t be too pushy and make sure they understand that you only want to help them, not take control of their life.

Don’t say: “You smell bad!”

Say instead: “Hey Dad, can you get in and out of the shower OK?” Over time, it can become difficult for elderly people to get in and out of the shower. It may be time to look into getting a senior-friendly shower that’s easier for your parent(s) to get in and out of without pain. Don’t hurt their feelings, but stay firm and be proactive when it comes to their health.

Don’t say: “You have no choice but to take that medicine!”

Say instead: “Please take your medication, Dad. I know it’s annoying, but I want you to stay healthy.” If the medicine is making them sick or causing detrimental side effects, consider taking them to a doctor to discuss these issues.

Sometimes, people just don’t want to take their pills. Try to make this a positive experience by doing something fun with your elderly friend or relative afterward, like having ice cream. Understandably, you can’t always be there for them, so do your best to set friendly reminders and encourage them as much as you can.

Don’t say: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Say instead: “I’m not so sure about that, but I can look it up on the Google machine if you want!” If it’s more serious, say something like, “I appreciate your wisdom and I know you’ve been through a lot. Maybe we should talk about this in more detail.”

Again, sometimes it may be better just to be silent and listen. Try not to get angry; just provide them with emotional support as much as you can.

Don’t give up—you’re not alone

If you feel like you need help dealing with your elderly loved one, you have some choices. Consider contacting resource centres for dementia, Alzheimer’s and/or senior care. They should be able to provide you with professional advice and make recommendations as to how you can actively support your loved one without getting too frustrated.

Try not to get discouraged with the elderly, even if they appear to be stubborn and set in their ways. Be as respectful as possible, even if frustrating situations keep reoccurring. Yelling or being harsh may only push the person away, and you want them to feel as comfortable as possible with you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for professional medical assistance if it’s needed. Stay strong, and don’t give up on your loved one!