Monday, April 15, 2013

Communication is Key to Being a Good Caregiver

 If you are the primary caregiver for your loved one, you might not be thinking about how communicating effectively might benefit your loved one or your ability to care for them well. However, as primary caregiver, you are the focal point for which all communications are channeled. Some of those conversations will need to be relayed to others involved in your loved one’s care such as a physician, a spiritual counselor, the hospice team and maybe family and friends who are also providing support. How effectively you communicate can make a difference in the quality of care your loved one receives.

Even if you have a close relationship with the person you are caring for, these discussions can be difficult and emotionally charged. Try a few of these suggestions and see if they help:

  - Calm yourself before beginning a discussion. Breathe deeply and settle yourself into a peaceful place before beginning. Your loved one will be able to sense if you are tense and upset. Remember to focus on what is best for your loved one. It might help to think of yourself in their position.

  - Really listen to what they have to say. Resist the urge to interrupt with thoughts of your own. Allow the person some silent time to think and to take time to form a response. Take it slow.

  - Use body language to communicate more effectively. Look your loved in the eye. Hold their hand or put your hand on their arm. Touch is an important part of communicating deeply.

   - Avoid trying to do other things while communicating. This can be distracting and you might miss something important. Also, it makes it look like you aren’t totally focused on what your loved one is trying to convey to you. This might damage trust in the long run.

         - Pay attention to details. Does their behavior match what they are saying? They might feel awkward or scared about saying what is really going on. They may be afraid of losing more and more independence. Make sure to double check gently with them if something doesn’t sound right. Assure them that you are there to do your very best for them.

           - Avoid arguing, as it will only lead to more tension and loss of trust. Use humor to dispel stress filled times. Laughter is a great way to make everyone more comfortable.

     - Write things down if you need to. Your next step will be to communicate things to others on the caregiving team and you want to make sure you don’t forget anything. Use a Caregiver’s Notebook to record good notes.

The next step in communicating is to talk to other caregivers. Hopefully you have recognized that you are not the only one who can care for your loved one and you have a whole team of caring people willing and able to assist with patient care, running errands, organizing food and giving you a break.

Provide clear, accurate and consistent information to all caregivers involved.
Find a way to communicate with all caregivers in a timely fashion. Consider setting up a Facebook or email group in order to keep everyone current. This is especially a good idea when communicating with family and friends who are out of town. You can share video and pictures as well.

Clear, honest, timely communications will make you an excellent support person for that dear person you are caring for.