Clear Communication In Caregiving Is Based On Organization, Listening Carefully, And Understanding How Misunderstandings Occur
Caring for someone can be difficult, and misunderstandings make it even more challenging. The need for clear communication in caregiving may mean learning new skills. Pegasus caregivers in Sylmar and elsewhere have found the following facts helpful, personally and professionally.
You’re probably familiar with “I said what I meant and I meant what I said.” It’s from Horton, the elephant in a Dr. Seuss story. Unfortunately, such clarity in communication isn’t always the case for humans.
Sometimes individuals say precisely what they mean, but the listener doesn’t hear it that way. Other times what is said just doesn’t come out the way it was intended. Reasons for misunderstanding vary, but commonly include:
- Vocabulary – the use of jargon or other expressions that might be unfamiliar. Medical terminology often falls into this category.
- Unwanted topics – certain topics, such as incontinence, embarrass some individuals and keep them from speaking truthfully, especially if others are present during the conversation.
- Physical factors – these can include speech impediments, hearing loss, and accents, as well as body language. Sometimes body language conveys the opposite meaning of what’s being said. Currently, living in the time of a pandemic means many conversations are limited to a telephone call. The lack of body language, especially in telemedicine calls, can impair an appropriate response from a healthcare provider.
- Inattention – individuals often think they know what the other person is talking about, so they don’t listen carefully. Oftentimes, a listener is formulating a response rather than listening. It’s also common for people to hear what they expect to hear, rather than what’s being said. The speaker may also expect a particular response and doesn’t listen to the actual answer. Descriptions or causes of symptoms are often dismissed for this reason.
Awareness of potential miscommunication helps caregivers offer feedback and ensure that everything is clear.
Attentive Listening Is Part Of Effective Communication
Caregivers typically have to communicate with individuals other than their loved one. This includes other family members, pharmacies, and healthcare providers. In all cases, developing good listening skills is essential.
Listening includes more than just hearing. Tips for effective listening include:
- Giving the speaker your full attention
- Making sure your body language, actions, and expressions aren’t contradictory
- Providing feedback by techniques such as summarizing what the speaker said
- Avoiding interruptions or judgment about what’s being said
- Responding with respect
Being an effective listener requires concentration and patience, especially with a loved one who no longer communicates well. Regardless of who you are communicating with, you and they both want to be heard. Then you each want an appropriate response.
Communicate Honestly With Family Members
Honesty is probably your best policy, especially with other family members. Make others aware of your worries and fears. It serves no one well if you hide or gloss over the health issues of your loved one.
Other family members should also know about your feelings. It’s crucial that you communicate your need for assistance, or a break, clearly. Not talking with others puts you at risk for burnout.
You will probably have to discuss subjects like finances and end-of-life decisions with your loved one. It depends on their cognitive ability, and circumstances, as to whether these matters should also be discussed with family members. Communicating about difficult matters as soon as possible prevents hurt feelings and undue stress.
Communicating If Your Loved One Is Cognitively Impaired
If your loved one is cognitively impaired, communication requires additional patience. The ability of each individual varies, so avoid stereotyping. Common issues that reduce effective communication include:
- Describing objects by their function rather than their name
- Gesturing in place of speaking
- Inability to express themselves logically
- Losing their train of thought
- Not being able to think of the right word
- Repetition of words
Despite the difficulties you may experience, avoid leaving your loved one out of conversations.
You can help your loved express themselves when you:
- Maintain eye contact
- Give them time
- Minimize distractions
- Recognize the feelings behind the words
- Treat their efforts with dignity
When you’re having trouble determining what they’re saying, offer feedback. You can also ask questions that have yes or no answers.
Communicating With Healthcare Providers Requires Organization
Communication with healthcare professionals is another area that can challenge a family caregiver. Obtaining the appropriate care in a timely manner may depend entirely on you. It’s crucial that your loved one gives the provider permission to discuss their care with you.
Your best friend is a notebook or other form of recording information. Thanks to COVID-19, healthcare providers are offering their services over the phone rather than in-person visits. You have to be organized to communicate effectively.
Be prepared to discuss any concerns you might have, such as new symptoms. Be sure you’re clear on any instructions the physician gives you. Do not be intimidated by their credentials and ask questions until you understand.
Pegasus caregivers in Sylmar and our other locations are trained to assist you in communicating with providers. Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our services include helping you communicate clearly with your loved one in the safety of home.