Caregiving and Communication: Part One
In Part One of this two-part blog series, we want to expand upon what we could only briefly mention in our last post: how to communicate effectively. Being a caregiver, you are confronted with many situations that require you to practice good communication skills. For example, this could mean interacting with your loved one, with nurse registry staff, doctor’s, and your own family members. Each situation entails certain unique communication techniques, and we would like to cover some of the most important. In this blog series, we will go over clarity, active listening, avoiding accusatory language, responding to negative behaviors, and being understanding with others.
Each of the following traits will allow you to be effective communicators as caregivers, whether you are at the doctor’s office or responding to your loved one’s negative behaviors.
(1) Be clear: Whenever you communicate, one of the most important things to consider is clarity. When you talk with someone, they presumably do not know what is going on in your head. If there’s a problem or a need you need to communicate, make sure to say it explicitly to those with whom you are communicating. Sometimes, being too blunt can come off as rude, but you can often rephrase what you want to say in ways that are both sensitive and honest. In order to be clear about what you want to communicate, you must think about what you want to say first. So, before you express what you need to someone else, take some time to think about what you want to express. This will help you be a clear communicator.
(2) Listen: Part of communication is not just speaking to others. It is about receiving information, as well. That is to say, it is about listening. When you listen to someone, make sure to do so without judgment, i.e. do not jump to conclusions about why the person is saying something or what they are saying. Also, listen to exactly what the person is telling you. Take in the information, and if you have questions about something, it is okay to ask for further clarification.
Although holding back emotions can be difficult, sometimes it is the appropriate thing to do when we communicate. If, for example, you feel angry or too upset to communicate effectively, it is okay to not respond immediately. Just let the other person know that you are upset and you need some time to think. It is also okay to communicate why something has upset you, as well. Part of good communication is evaluating the entire situation, like how we feel, how the other person expresses themselves, and our ability to carry on the conversation productively.
(3) Avoid accusatory language: Accusatory language is often not productive. Unless you need to report something serious that someone did, then accusatory language is understandable. However, sometimes difficult conversations with people, like family members, can often devolve into pointing out other people’s faults and shortcomings. Ask yourself, “Will saying these things lead me anywhere productive?” If not, then you should try to re-prioritize the issues you want to discuss. For example, it is better to figure out how to best help your loved one rather than expending energy telling your family member that they never help out and are lazy. Work towards solutions, not more problems.
Next week, we will go over responding to your loved one’s negative behaviors and the need to be understanding as we communicate. If you have any other questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.