Tyra Oldham and her mother Betty Oldham. Photo provided

By Dr. Tyra Oldham

To think about care means to give a quality of life to others no matter someone’s age, health, or challenges. It is easy to overlook those in care. For some, seeing a potential future can make them uncomfortable—further, it is easy for others to ignore people they do not value. Moreover, there can be a dismissive quality toward those perceived as infirm, weak, old, or not contributing to some form of productivity in society. The ability to care has a visual and perceptual component inherent in the communication style of those in care. Communication is relevant to the person in care so that their needs are met for a better quality of life.

How often have you experienced someone speaking to a senior and raising their voice to communicate? Another example is not listening to the person in care to move on with your day, creating a narrative for the other that the person in care does not confirm. Yes, there are those in care that communication is more than a challenge and potentially impossible, but the goal for a caregiver to try.

As a caregiver, there is essential patience in listening. Listening can lead to stepping back and taking more time to get into the mind and moment of the person speaking. Listening can require one to open up and dive deep for additional patience.

Be Thoughtful

In communication, be thoughtful and engage with empathy as well as compassion. Allow time in your busy schedule to slow down and be in the moment. Engage thoughtfully and ask questions to ensure you hear what is being communicated. Try not to hear what you think, but listen and watch for cues for better communication.

All About the Other Person

When communicating, it’s more about the other person. You may say why. To be supportive, the person being cared for may not be as expressive as they once were, so it is up to the caregiver to take time to think:

  • What is the person saying?
  • Have I heard what was intended?
  • Can I ask more simple defining questions for clarity?
  • Have I taken time to look at their demeanor, eyes, and non-verbal cues?
  • Ask if I am present in the conversation and if not, take time to become present.

Be Active Listener

Active listening is a practice to ensure a participatory conversation. Assisting Hands shared in their article, “Tips for Better Communication with Your Elderly Loved One,” that “Your elderly loved one might be having a tough time telling you what they are thinking. However, you shouldn’t finish their sentences for them. Don’t let your impatience take over. Allow your elderly loved one to talk and give them the time they need to do so. Listen completely to what they are telling you.”

Be an Active Listener and empathetic to those in any stage of care. The caregiver seeks to restore and support those in need by learning to listen for increased communication. Providing an ear to others allows for healing and may prevent other issues in the future.

Communication is essential to a healthy life for the caregiver and the patient or loved one. Communication is not only for the caregiver but for practitioners, professionals, and friends. When we listen to others, we produce care, give voice to the afflicted, and we reduce the marginalization of others. Taking time to listen and communicate may change the relationship.

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