Giving Care: Communication is Key

Woman speaks to elderly couple on an outside benchCommunication between family caregivers and their recipients is something which is often overlooked or undervalued.

The one who is affected will often fail to communicate what they’re going through to the very people who most need to know. They may fail to tell their friends; they may fail to tell their families; they may fail to tell their colleagues and employers. They may even fail to tell their doctors. And that failure to communicate — or that failure to communicate effectively — all too often means they aren’t getting the understanding, help and treatment that they need.

Caregivers too often talk “about” the family member instead of “to” them. Open, two-way communication is essential for working together to make life easier and more fulfilling for both. Effective communication is vital in dealing with the everyday aspects of any disease or disability. Talking about how you feel, both physically and emotionally, isn’t always easy, but if you don’t express your feelings, the people around you are in no position to provide the help and support you may need. If the family caregiver does not communicate their feelings as well, this can lead to hurt and misunderstanding on the part of the care recipient.

Living with a disease or disability can be tough, especially if you do it in isolation. Learning to communicate effectively with every member of the treatment team — from friends, family and colleagues to the health professionals involved — can make your road a lot smoother in countless ways.

Communication between Caregivers and Care Recipients

Really listen

• Listen to what the person is saying.
• Try to determine what the person is hearing you say.
• Listen to silence as silence allows someone to think about what is being discussed or how to respond.

Ask Questions

• Find out what is really going on.
• Are you assuming some things about what the other person is saying because you think you know everything that is going on.

Use Body Language to Improve Communication

• Look the person in the eye.
• Lean into the person or put a hand on the person’s arm or shoulder; remember that not everyone likes to be touched so this may not be effective.

Talk directly to the person

• It may be easy for caregivers to “multi-task” as they prepare meals, do laundry, take someone to the grocery store, or accompany them to a doctor’s appointment.
• It is important to set aside time to have one-on-one conversation.
• This may save time in the long run because misunderstandings can be avoided.
• If the care receiver feels heard and understood they may talk about something that is a concern or fear.

Avoid arguing

• Listen to concerns and try to understand the other person’s experience and opinions.
• Remember that it is still his or her life and care.
• Focus on meeting unmet needs and not on conflict.
Use humor when appropriate
• Humor can help ease tension.
• Most caregivers and care receivers know each other well enough to find humor in the situation.

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