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Men: Experiencing Difficulty with Communication

Man walking with woman in wheelchairThe baby boomer population has now reached a place in their life where they may find themselves caring for a parent or a spouse.  Some of the communication difficulties may be emotional and result in becoming defensive or a misunderstanding. Communication problems may also be more mechanical (speech). Clear communication with your loved one is important to decrease frustrations for both of you.    

It may be difficult at times to understand or deal with emotionally what your loved one is trying to say and it can also be difficult for your loved one to figure out or understand you.  Good communication will decrease defensiveness and misunderstandings.  Here are a few general communication guidelines for you to try:

Communication Guidelines

State your feelings without causing your parent or spouse to become defensive.

"I feel angry” will sound better than “you made me angry”.
Remember that your parent or spouse also has a right to state their feelings. Ask “How does that make you feel?”

Give time for his or her response.
Speak directly to your parent or spouse.
This is helpful when your loved one has hearing difficulties.
Face your loved one when speaking to them.
Sit or stoop to your loved ones eye level.

Practice being a good listener.  

Keep eye contact.

Let your loved one finish what they are saying.

Ask questions when your loved one has finished talking.


If you are caring for your parent or your wife or partner who has thinking problems, communication can be extra challenging and frustrating.  Catching your loved ones attention is important when beginning a conversation in order to decrease frustration.Here are some examples that can improve communication and decrease frustration. 

Hints to Improve Communication & Decrease Frustration

Start with “Mom”, “Dad”, “Honey”

Wait until you have their attention before continuing.

Remain at eye level

Sit in a chair in front of your loved one

Use short, simple sentences

This will keep their attention

Ask rather than demand  

"Please, Can you or Will you…..”

If your loved one is hard of hearing

Sit a little closer when speaking


Other Helpful hints for Better Communication
Know that your loved one may not remember words and this could be frustrating for him or her.  Help by using pronouns to fit the sentence:  “he”, “she”, “it”.

Focus on their body or hand motions to understand what he or she is trying to say.
Know that power struggles will occur with your parent or spouse:  Walk away for a few minutes.

Then come back to the subject.
It is worthwhile to cool down and think about the situation before readdressing it.


Additional Web Sites

The following are some websites that offer more information on care giving and communication with your loved one.


Family Caregiver Alliance (n.d.).  Communicating with an elderly loved one

Knutsen, H., & Raholm, M. (2009).  The dialectic movement between suffering and reconciliation: Male caregivers’ experience of caring for their wives suffering from dementia. International Journal for Human Caring, 13(4), 50-56. 

Kramer, B., & Thompson, E. (2005).  Men as caregivers.  Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.

Taking care of you: Self-care for family caregivers (n.d.).  Retrieved from

Developed in 2011 by Karen Niner, RN, BSN at the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.

Last Updated: 5/11/17