First of all, communication is an important skill for anyone. It’s especially important as a caregiver. Good communication skills will lay the groundwork for your relationship with your patient or loved one to provide the best care possible. Your patient needs to feel that you are having a conversation with them—that you respect them—even if they cannot understand everything you are saying. Dealing with this day out and being careful not to irritate the situation any further can cause strain on you, as the caregiver. Here are some great books to help you now.
Communication Is More than Speaking and Listening
Second of all, when we think about communicating, two aspects come to mind immediately—speaking and listening. However, when you are going to speak about important topics with your aging loved one, it would be wise to think things through carefully on your own before you actually talk with them. Focus on the specifics of what you want to cover.
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In addition, what words we choose to use definitely matter when the topics are emotional ones! Don’t rush the conversation to a conclusion because that could prove frustrating to you and your loved ones. As we age, it takes longer to do things, and that includes thinking things over as ideas unfold. Realize the fact going in and don’t try to rush your loved ones into making decisions. The goal of this communication is to maximize your loved one’s independence.
For this reason, learn about your patients’ backgrounds by asking questions about their lives. Also, ask them how they would like to spend their time, their likes and dislikes, about their family, etc. Try to find the communication method that works best with each individual person early in your relationship. Always face your patients when you speak and always maintain eye contact; ask what they think would be good solutions.
Never Be Patronizing
Remember, you are talking to an adult, not a child. It is important to realize, the patronizing speech will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want to be spoken to in the situation. Look for answers that optimize strengths and compensate for problems. Be aware of the whole situation; many of the issues of aging can be solved by providing the patient or loved one with the support they need.
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Communicating Made Easier: Language and Limitations Can Get in the Way
As a matter of fact, as our bodies and minds age. We lose control over so many aspects of our lives that it can make us stubborn. Not to mention, even when faced with a choice that is obviously in our best interest. Not to mention, always let the patient or loved one take their time and make their own decision. The patient or loved one is looking back at their lives and trying to figure out why they are here? And what they will leave behind. Always have the patience to wait for the patient or your loved one to make his or her own decisions. Simply understanding the loss of control your loved one is feeling—empathizing with them—can smooth out some rough spots, making caregiving a bit easier.
By the same token, communication can be very simple. In other words, someone says something, and another person understands what he or she said . . . and meaning. Of course, not all communication goes so smoothly. Things can get in the way. For the patient or loved one, there may be numerous obstacles to overcome. If they have hearing or sight problems, getting a message through can be more difficult for everyone involved. Chronic pain, symptoms of illnesses, and side effects from medications can dull a patient’s or loved one’s senses, along with their ability to comprehend. Conversing will demand more concentration and energy. If either of these is in short supply, communication will suffer even more.
This can lead to everyone being frustrated and the natural tendency to avoid communication. You will have to communicate on their terms, at their own pace. Sometimes patients or loved ones are not ready or willing to open up. Here are some hints for getting past their barriers and stimulating conversation.
TIPS FOR ENHANCING THE FLOW OF COMMUNICATION
- Ask questions that generate involvement and check for their level of understanding.
- Have the patience to wait for answers.
- Make it easier for everyone to stay attentive. Cut down on noise and distractions in the room.
- Speak at a slow pace and volume that works for the patient or loved one. Use visual cues and physical touch to help convey your message.
- Ask for their advice . . . and do not give yours.
- Ask specific questions, yet do not interrogate. Routine questions such as “How are you doing?” usually lead to automatic answers.
- Always be a good listener and maintain eye contact. These are two ways you can communicate that you care.
- Listen to what they are not saying. This is especially important when dealing with the effects of illnesses and disabilities.
- Do not be too complex.
- Change the subject if you notice frustration.
- Never argue with the patient or loved one.
- Do not ever be condescending.
- Do not ask a lot of questions that rely on a good memory.
- Try humor, laughter is the best medicine to break the ice.
Finally, communicating with the patient or loved one is very important and will help you give the best care possible. In this case, put yourself in their shoes. By all means, this will help you build trust and a solid relationship that will provide a positive atmosphere for your patient or loved one.