15 Phrases to Avoid When Communicating with Elderly Parents


As your parents age, it becomes increasingly important to maintain open and supportive communication. However, specific statements, often said unintentionally, can have profound adverse effects on your parents, impacting their mental health, self-esteem, and sense of autonomy. Read on as we look into these statements that may seem harmless but can cause feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and loss of independence. 

You Already Told Me That


When you respond with “You already told me that,” it can be dismissive or impatient. Regardless of the intention behind the phrase, it implies that the speaker’s story or memory needs to be more important to be heard again. For elderly parents, who may already feel the effects of aging on their independence and self-worth, such a response can be particularly hurtful.

You’re Too Old for That


Telling your parents that they are old for something might seem like a protective or pragmatic statement. However, it can have profound negative effects on their self-esteem, independence, and overall well-being. 

Let Me Do That for You


When interacting with elderly parents, it’s essential to strike a balance between offering help and respecting their independence. While the intention behind it is usually kind and helpful, it can have unintended adverse effects on your parents’ sense of autonomy and self-worth.

Why Don’t You Move to a Nursing Home?


Discussing the possibility of moving to a nursing home with elderly parents is one of the most sensitive and challenging conversations families can have. Voicing this question can trigger strong emotions and resistance.  It’s necessary to address this topic with empathy and careful attention to their feelings and preferences.

How Can You Not Remember That?


Memory-related conversations require empathy and understanding, reframing questions to offer support rather than blame. Instead of questioning their memory, offer assistance and cues to help recall information, fostering open communication in a non-judgmental environment. By approaching memory lapses with compassion and patience, you can cultivate a more positive and encouraging atmosphere  

You Need to Stop Driving


Insisting that your parents stop driving can trigger a significant loss of freedom and independence. Addressing this issue with care, discussing safety concerns, and exploring alternatives together are imperative. Communication goes a great deal in mitigating the state of helplessness.

You Don’t Understand Technology


Assuming that they can’t grasp technology can be condescending and disheartening. Acknowledge their efforts, provide gentle guidance, and offer hands-on assistance without judgment.  Create a supportive environment where they feel at ease to ask questions and learn at their own pace.

You’re Not Making Sense.


Active listening, seeking clarification, and offering positive reinforcement for their efforts are vital strategies for effectively overcoming communication hurdles. Don’t ignore their point of view; instead, try to understand it and communicate with patience. Validating feelings and thoughts is important because it strengthens your relationship and supports your mental and emotional well-being.

It Would Help If You Didn’t Eat That


Critiquing their food choices can come across as controlling and infantilizing. While it’s essential to encourage healthy eating, it’s better to discuss dietary choices respectfully and collaboratively. Offering more nutritious alternatives and explaining the benefits helps them feel involved.

Act Your Age

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By telling someone to “act their age,” we are often implying that their behavior is inappropriate or out of sync with societal expectations for someone of their years. For elderly parents, this can be interpreted as condescending and dismissive. It suggests that their actions, desires, or expressions are not valid because they don’t align with what we perceive as age-appropriate behavior.

Why Are You So Slow?

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Pointing out that they are moving slowly means that you are emphasizing their physical limitations, which is frustrating and can lead to increased anxiety and stress. This can make them feel more pressured, which might slow them down further due to the fear of making mistakes.

Stop Being So Stubborn


Labeling your parents as stubborn dismisses their opinions and decisions, which can be demoralizing. Seek to understand by asking questions to grasp the reasons behind their resistance. Acknowledge their concerns and emotions to validate their feelings, making them feel heard and respected. Collaborate on solutions by working together to find compromises while addressing your concerns.

You’re Embarrassing Me


Accusing them of embarrassing you can deeply hurt and damage their self-esteem. It’s essential to handle potentially embarrassing situations with empathy and composure. Gently redirect the conversation or activity to something more comfortable without highlighting the embarrassment to diffuse the situation. If a discussion is necessary, have it in private to avoid public humiliation and show respect for their dignity.

You Don’t Need That


Dismissing desires by saying they don’t need something can be undermining. It’s fundamental to respect their autonomy and perspective. They may have emotional attachments to items or activities, which hold significant sentimental value or provide comfort and familiarity.

I Don’t Have Time for This


In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and short on time. However, expressing impatience, especially to elderly parents, can be hurtful. Prioritize open communication and demonstrate your willingness to make time for them, even if it requires adjusting your schedule.


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