Tips for Caregivers (Part Two)

The role of a caregiver in any long-term disability situation is loaded with challenge– intellectual, physical, emotional and sometimes financial. Few are fully prepared to understand the demands and we all struggle to satisfy them. In this three part series each week, Susan will share practical tips for caregivers to consider as you serve your loved ones will be.

Maintain respectful communication with providers.
Ongoing communication with medical, legal and caregiving staff is essential to the wellbeing of all concerned parties. As caregiver, you have the opportunity and responsibility to make sure this communication is focused, respectful and meaningful. Whenever possible, keep a list of questions and concerns nearby and use them to ask for clarification or additional insight from providers. Your demeanor will determine the quality of these discussions. Elevating your voice or giving way to angry outbursts is likely to limit the time providers offer you. Mutual respect and reasonable conversation create alliances that will serve you well.

When possible, take special care to avoid communication with providers immediately after difficult family discussions. It is not unusual to feel emotionally battered and anxious to get answers to insistent questions. However, transferring the heat from family to providers is not an optimal means of maintaining essential partnerships in your loved one’s care.

Listen carefully to information provided. Take time to consider it before asking questions that may have already been answered or cannot yet be answered. Remember that providers are fellow humans, subject to all the emotional challenges you are experiencing. They are under intense pressure to make important decisions for their patients and subsequently deal with family members who may be distraught. Where you can help them feel appreciated, you may find more willing partners.

The same is true for family members. They, too, are human, though family dynamics can make them feel like monsters! They want what’s best for your loved one. When you sense tension, whether by tone of voice, body posture, lack of eye content, or hesitation to respond directly to a question or concern, pause and listen more deeply. This is devilishly difficult to do but can yield enormous benefits. Your deep listening can benefit everyone involved.

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