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Five Ways to Improve Caregiver Communications Within the Family

Jul 17, 2008
Communication goes on in many ways: exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing or behavior. It is no surprise that most families develop a special and unique communications style. When we talk to our family members, not only do we search for signs of love, but we also look for signs of disapproval. When families come together for making decisions about the care of their parent, they may need to develop or reframe their communication skills.

Here are five ways to improve family communications:

1. Realize the family is a hierarchical institution. There is power of a parent over a child, of an older brother or sister over a younger one. There are shifting alliances between siblings.
As the parent ages, there is a reversal of the roles of helper and helped, and this can be disconcerting. Strive to find the balance so that the needs of one person do not impinge on the actions of the other.

2. Understand the power of being a good listener. Whether you are the caregiver or care-receiver, in most families we want someone to listen to us and to really understand what we are thinking, understanding, and saying. It is not unusual for family members to realize they have never really known very much about real feelings and values of each other. When we concentrate more on listening attentively, our relationships improve, and so do our communications.

3. Learn to be a good speaker who can clearly express ideas and feelings AND help the listener to hear the message. You can improve your odds of getting your message across if you use I statements rather than You statements. A family member is more likely to continue conversation if you say, I feel upset when you _________ instead of You make me upset when you _____________.

4. Become a problem solver. This does not mean just coming up with the answer, it also means finding a solution. Be realistic in your expectations. Allow siblings to help in ways they are able. Keep them informed and included in the caregiving process.

5. Show appreciation and gratitude. Human nature tells us that people respond favorably to those who show them genuine appreciation and gratitude. Just a simple thank you or apology can go a long way. Make a decision to make a positive impact on those around you.

If poor family communication is hindering your decision making process, it may be a good idea to hold a family meeting with a formal decision making process. You may have to enlist the help of an outside facilitator.
About the Author
Rebecca Colmer is an elder Care Advocate, Author, Speaker, Publisher, and Caregiver. You can find more caregiving tools and resources at her website:
Caregiving Tools
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