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How to Communicate Caregiving Issues


Good communication skills are essential to successful caregiving. Learn how to communicate more effectively with your care receiver, physicians and family members.


In caregiving, good communication skills are essential to stay connected with the care receiver. We must rely on our ability to listen, to obtain, interpret and share information. In many cases, care receivers may have medical limitations that render them unable to speak for themselves or access the assistance and services they need. Approaching older persons or persons with disabilities to talk about their personal care needs can be awkward and difficult. Care providers who understand and practice the art of good communication can play a pivotal role as advocates and/or mediators.

This section provides recommendations geared to improving dialogue and generating positive outcomes for the care receiver and professionals with whom you may be interacting. Good communication is the vital first step to resolution of caregiving issues.

Communication tips: Caregiver - care receiver

Pick a quiet place and time to hold discussions with the care receiver. Arrange a time when fatigue or worry are least intrusive. These factors can disrupt the caregiver's ability to listen and the care receiver's ability to focus on the message. Allow sufficient time for a conversation so you do not feel pressed to hurry on to other commitments.

Be patient. The person you are caring for may not know how to express himself/herself or communicate clearly and may have difficulty in comprehending everything. An environment that helps the care receiver feel safe will add to the quality of the conversation.

Make sure your care receiver is wearing glasses or hearing aids if he has them, and they are in good working order. Speak slowly and look directly into the eyes of the person with whom you are communicating. Be willing to listen to the feelings, emotions and point of view of the care receiver.

Good listeners have an open mind and they respect differences of opinion. It is okay to agree to disagree. You may reassure him or her by saying, "I won't get mad and I will keep the discussion just between the two of us."

Acknowledge the care receiver's point of view and emotions. Be willing to share your own feelings, emotions and viewpoints. Provide accurate and truthful information to the care receiver without pointing blame if their point of view differs from yours. Don't try to protect or beat around the bush. Telling half-truths or making promises you cannot keep do not support either of you.

Be prepared for conversations you know will be difficult. For example, you know the time has come when your parents should no longer be driving and you believe they will not be willing to give up the car keys. Being prepared will reduce anxiety and increase your ability to listen.

Avoid interrupting or finishing sentences. This can make the other person feel that what he has to say is not important.

Ask open-ended questions that do not limit the other person to a yes or no response. Ask, for example, "How would you feel about having a caregiver help you with some of your household tasks?"

Paraphrase or restate what you heard if you are unclear about a message. For example, ask "Do you feel if you give up driving you won't be able to...?"

Use the words the speaker uses. Doing this lets the person know you respect their words. If the care receiver tells you they are down in the dumps to describe a sad mood, use the same words. For example ask, "What's making you feel down in the dumps?" or, "Tell me how it feels when you are down in the dumps."

If a difficult decision needs to be made involving the person in your care, write down key issues to help the care receiver understand how you feel about the situation. Leave these notes behind to give the care receiver additional time for decision making.

Listen to the message, how it is delivered and what type of body language is involved. Don't think about what you plan to say next. If your thoughts are about what you want to say, you are not fully listening to the one who is speaking to you.