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Tough Conversations: How to Address Your Senior Loved One’s Mental Health


Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss openly, even with family and close friends. As humans, we're often conditioned to put on our best face in public and stay strong for those around us. Many people quietly suffer through mental health issues and this is especially true for seniors. Loneliness and depression are common for seniors, so it’s important for loved ones to be vigilant and look for signs. Initiating conversations about mental health can be difficult. However, these hard talks are a way of showing each other how much we care. Try these strategies for talking with your senior loved one about their mental health.

Choose the Right Time & Place

Sensitive conversations should be planned for a time when your senior loved one is not stressed, upset, or frustrated. Take care not to make this a reactive conversation. Instead, choose a location where they will feel safe and empowered. Plan an afternoon tea in the comfort of their home, or go for a quiet walk in nature. Setting the scene can help make the conversation flow more naturally.

Be Direct & Compassionate

Take a note from motivational life coach Brene Brown, and follow the "clear is kind" approach. Have empathy, but don't shy away from the topic. Ask your senior loved one directly how they are doing. Bring up specific concerns and mention why you are having this conversation. Our family and friends need to know these talks come from a place of love and a desire to care for their well-being.

Practice Active Listening

Many times the fear of judgment or embarrassment at oversharing keeps aging adults from opening up. Practice active listening in preparation for the conversation. One technique you can use when speaking about difficult topics is to hold the pause. Too often, we feel the need to fill in the silence. If we allow a natural silence instead, this gives our loved ones the time to reflect and add more details. Avoid trying to relate with simple phrases like "I understand what you're going through" or "oh yeah, all of us feel that way sometimes." Instead, focus on being a good listener and learning what their needs are.

We understand these conversations can be challenging, but reaching out to senior loved ones is the best way to foster positive connections and ensure their mental wellness is prioritized. For more help navigating senior needs, reach out to the Ebenezer team today.

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Ebenezer is Minnesota’s largest senior living operator with over 100 years of experience serving older adults. As part of Fairview Health Services, Ebenezer is dedicated to healing, discovering and educating for longer, healthier and meaningful lives. ​

Discrimination is Against the Law. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws. We do not discriminate against, exclude or treat people differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation.

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