Communication is challenging. We use it in every part of our life, whether it’s verbal or non-verbal, and we rely on communication to convey our wants and needs.
Now imagine the unique challenges caregivers and patients face when trying to communicate with one another in a new and unfamiliar environment, or when health issues create roadblocks. If you have an aging friend or family member who relies on the help of a professional caregiver, know that there are tips and resources that can help you facilitate stronger, clearer communication between both parties. Take a look!
- Set a weekly meeting to talk about important issues.
Pick a day and time and make it a weekly, recurring meeting where the patient and caregiver can go over important issues. It may be helpful to have a third-party sit in on these meetings, like the patients spouse or adult children. Some common topics that should be discussed are health concerns, changes in moods or behaviors, changes in needs and expectations for care, the schedule for the upcoming week and ways to improve everyone’s experience. Through weekly meetings, you will have scheduled time for discussion so issues are left unaddressed for long periods of time.
- Have multiple ways to communicate.
Not everyone prefers the same communication channels. Especially with aging adults, certain technologies or skills such as speaking, typing or writing can become increasingly difficult. Be sure to have multiple ways for caregivers and patients to communicate with each other and with other members of the family. Caregivers may want to call, text or email with family members to communicate important information. But when communicating with their patient, caregivers may prefer speaking face-to-face or writing things down for them to read. Often it’s trial and error! Be patient to find the communication channels that work best for your situation – and be flexible!
- Check in with each party independently.
If you are the friend or family member of an aging loved one who has a professional caregiver, you should check in with the caregiver independently of your loved one, and vice versa. This creates a safe space for open communication about hard-to-address topics. For example, a caregiver may have noticed a decline in health and need to recommend additional care and assistance for your loved one. Or your loved one may feel their needs are not being fully met and want to talk about their expectations for quality care. As a third-party listener, you are a valuable communication channel who can help mediate issues before they grow into larger concerns.
- Address concerns quickly.
And when it comes to voiced concerns, the key is to address them quickly. Any issue is worth examining because a caregiver-patient relationship is quite intimate and greatly impacts quality of life for both parties. Even something as minor as a negative attitude or resistance to care can manifest into larger, more concerning issues, if not addressed immediately. Don’t forget to include your home care provider in the conversation, as they have vast experience working with both caregivers and patients to resolve just about every issue you can imagine.
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication.
Equally as important as verbal communication is non-verbal cues that can give you insight into larger issues that are slowly coming to a boil. For example, a patient’s body language around a caregiver, facial expressions and mood can alert you of negative emotions that could manifest into negative behavior in the future. Likewise, a caregiver’s non-verbal communication toward a patient is another way they can demonstrate love, respect, comfort and friendship. If these important cues feel “off” or indicate there may be tension between the two parties, it’s worth addressing this early and often.
What is your favorite tip for improving caregiver communication? Or do you have another to share? Leave a comment below!