By Torie Temple
Terry Graham, registered nurse at Helping Hands Companion Services, give the top recommendations to consider when stepping into a caregiver role.
Step 2. Learn to Communicate
Take steps to learn how to communicate with your loved one despite any disabilities that might hinder his or her ability to speak or communicate effectively. Understanding how to communicate with one another can put both a caregiver and the one being cared for at ease.
Hearing loss, vision loss, dementia, and stroke are just a few medical issues that can make communication difficult. Terry says patience is the key to communicating more effectively and suggests some ways to overcome obstacles:
- Communicate your care and concerns through your words, facial expressions, and gestures. Remember to smile or soften your expression. Make your tone soothing if the elderly person is agitated.
- Be sure you have the person’s attention by making eye contact or touching their hand or shoulder to get their attention.
- Listen when they speak to you. Turn your face to them and respond.
- Adjust the environment if necessary. Turn off competing noise from televisions or radios.
- Older people sometimes have trouble processing language. Give them time to think about what you’ve said and to answer your question.
- Use familiar language and be clear. Avoid long explanations or complicated instructions.
- If the person’s physical abilities to communicate are impaired, you may need to use pen and paper, notecards with pre-written words on them, or other non-verbal methods.
- People with dementia cannot handle a lot of options, so limit the choices you present to them to two.
- If misunderstandings happen in your communication, be willing to take responsibility and apologize.
The most important lessons to learn about communication are to be willing to change your responses and to be flexible and understanding, Terry says.
Read the first step for new caregivers here.