Communicating more effectively with the person you're caring for

Communicating more effectively with the person you're caring for

It is through our communication that we establish relationships. Think about all the relationships you may have as a caregiver and consider all the different ways you communicate with your spouse or partner, children, family members, friends, health care providers, communities, and the person(s) in your care.

Effective communication with a caregiver includes using language as a back and forth dialogue of ideas, thoughts, and needs of the patient.

Through our communication with others we share our ideas, thoughts, memories, needs, hopes, wishes, concerns, and fears.  It is what makes us human.

This is why your caregiver communication skills are an extremely important aspect of caregiving. As a caregiver you need to know what the person in your care needs and what they are experiencing.
In return, the person in your care needs to trust you and understand what is happening to them.

How caregiver communication works

communication between two people

Think for a moment and reflect on the question: What is communication?

Communication is the process through which information is exchanged back and forth between individuals.

Think about a caregiver and a patient in conversation: One person is the communicator, sharing information, while the other is the listener, or the "communication partner," receiving the information or message.

Within the course of a conversation we switch these roles back and forth without even thinking. At one moment, you are speaking to your patient, and the next moment, you are listening to your patient.

As a caregiver do you ever stop to think about this switch in your role? Or do you stop to think how remarkable it is that you are able to express your thoughts through conversation with your patient, and then, without noticing, you are able to interpret what your "conversation partner" shares with you?

So how did you do that? How did you express your thoughts to the person in your care, and how did he or she interpret or understand what you said?

Communication is indeed one of the most complex human functions. As humans we have acquired a complicated system called language for the purpose of messaging. Only the human brain has developed such an advanced communication system that enables us and gives us the capacity to use language as a means of communication.

As infants we naturally start to learn the language that surrounds us. This is the way humans, no matter where we live, in what country, city or small town, communicate through language.

Effective communication with a caregiver includes using language as a back and forth dialogue of ideas, thoughts, and needs of the patient.

Caregiver communication skills

Now, how do we use language as a caregiver?

Any language has four different functions that caregivers will need to employ in order to communicate with their patient, health care providers, family members, and others:

Speak: Say the words needed to clearly convey your message to the person in your care.

Understand and Listen: Interpret and understand what the person in your care is saying.

Write: Write out the message you need to communicate. Texting is a good example of written communication today. You may need to write instructions to other caregivers or even to the person in your care, whether this is by hand, email, or text message.

Read: Understand a written message. There may be times as a caregiver that you will need to read notes and instructions provided by doctors and nurses. At other times you may need to do your own online research and must be able to read and clearly understand articles related to your caregiving abilities or patient’s needs.

When these four components of language are combined we can communicate with one another. In most caregiving situations you will most likely need to use all four language components to fully understand the needs of the person in your care.

What makes good patient and caregiver communication?

With a better understanding of what makes up the foundation of normal or regular communication think about what makes you a good communicator with your patients. In what ways could you improve your caregiver communications skills?

Remember, good communication skills will benefit all of our relationships. We all have experienced being successful communicators in some situations and ineffective communicators in other situations.

Do you often get your ideas across effectively or fully understand what the person in your care is trying to express to you? Is your use of language the only way in which you get your message across?

Please consider sharing your own patient caregiver communication style and reflections on this topic in the comments section.

 

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