It can be difficult to talk to the elderly. Even when you love them dearly and you want to spend time with them, you may find some serious roadblocks that make you feel like a deep, meaningful conversation is impossible.

This is dangerous, though, because the elderly person may not bring up things like neglect or even abuse in a nursing home. The best way to learn what’s really going on is to engage in these conversations. How can you do that? Here are a few tips:

  • Talk slowly and distinctly
  • Do not be afraid to repeat yourself
  • Use short sentences
  • Focus on one topic before moving to the next
  • Show them that you’re listening.
  • Consider mental disorders, degenerative brain diseases and other issues that come along with aging.
  • Never be condescending.
  • Avoid getting frustrated, and control your emotions.
  • Stress that you love them, even when asking hard questions.
  • Find an environment for your conversation where they feel comfortable.
  • Get rid of outside distractions, like the TV or the radio.
  • Remember that you may need to express things differently or pick different words to get them to open up.
  • Try to take an optimistic approach, even when you’re worried.

You need to search these conversations for clues. Yes, it can be taxing at times. Yes, it may feel like you’re not making much progress. However, these conversations are your best chances to discover abuse and neglect as early as you can. Do not let them slip by.

If you do find out that your loved one is being neglected or abused, make sure you know what legal steps to take.