As a caregiver, you need to communicate with many people to survive. You've got to connect with family, friends, co-workers, employers, healthcare professionals, insurance companies — and a loved one who may not be the same person he or she used to be. Constructive and effective communication is vital. When your communication is clear, assertive and constructive, you're more likely to be heard and get the response you need. Your stress level and the added responsibilities are going to make it harder to stay focused, articulate your needs and feelings and make sure you understand what everyone is demanding from you. You'll need to stay organized, have patience and control conflicting emotions. Here are some basic guidelines for good communication.General Communication Tips
- Be assertive, honest and patient. You've got a long road ahead. You need support from your loved one and those who will be on your team.
- Use "I" messages rather than "you" messages. By saying "I feel angry" rather than "You made me angry," you can express your feelings without blaming others or causing them to become defensive.
- Respect the rights and feelings of others. Don't say something that will violate another person's rights or intentionally hurt the person's feelings. Recognize that the other person has the right to express feelings.
- Be clear and specific. Speak directly to the person. Don't hint or hope the person will guess what you need. People are not mind readers. When you speak directly about what you need or feel, you take the risk that the other person might disagree or say no to your request, but your action also shows respect for the other person's opinion. When both parties speak directly, the chances of reaching understanding are greater. Be a good listener. Listening is the most important aspect of communication.
- If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. If you're not getting your point across, or you're getting no response, try again later. Sometimes, it's just not the right time.
Communicating With Your Loved One
If your loved one is a stroke survivor, he or she may have varying degrees of communication challenges. Survivors with aphasia (speech or language disorder after stroke) may understand more than they can express. It can be frustrating, sad and frightening. Even if your loved one can express himself or herself, there may be some type of role reversal involved when you become a caregiver. Print out these tips and add them to your journal to read over when you get frustrated.
Communicating With Your Family
The illness and dependency of a loved one can strain family relationships. Additional stress may result as family members sacrifice time and money as a result of caregiving. Emotions may run high when everyone is frightened and concerned about the situation, and nerves may be on edge. Roles may be reversed. The best intentions of families can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, resentment and fear. Start the process of good communication by holding a family meeting. Then minimize misunderstandings by keeping communication with family members open, honest and constructive.
Communicating With Healthcare Professionals
The relationship you build with the healthcare professionals caring for your loved one can make a big difference in your loved one's recovery and in your ability to understand what you can and can't control about the situation. It's very important for you to build and nurture this relationship and for the doctors to clearly understand your role with the patient.
Communicating With Friends
Your friends want to know how you're doing and how they can help. Don't shut them out. You need them for emotional support and to help you keep living your life.
Communicating With Employers
You've got to keep your job, but it's always being interrupted by your caregiving responsibilities. You're tired, irritable and can't focus on the work the way you used to. How are you going to balance work and caregiving? For some, it isn't possible, and hundreds of thousands of caregivers have to adjust their work life to suit their caregiving role. However, if you can't afford to lose your job, we've got some tips to help you educate your employer and remain a valuable contributor to the company without neglecting your loved one.
Communicating with Other Caregivers
This is a very important part of being a caregiver. Talking to others who are experiencing the same thing is more helpful than you can imagine. Strike up conversations at the doctor's office or rehab while you're waiting for your loved one. The person sitting next to you may be as overwhelmed as you are and could need to talk to someone as much as you do. Visit other caregiver sites to find caregiver support groups.