How Can You Reduce Confusion for Frustration-free Conversation?
Guest article by Andrew Atkinson
Good care isn’t just physical; it’s also mental and emotional. Often, caregivers struggle with the companionship side of care.
Caring physically for someone who can no longer do everything on his/her own may seem like a daunting task, but it’s important not to neglect one’s emotional needs even if the person who, you’re caring for can no longer hold a long, in-depth conversation.
The Importance of Body Language and Tone
What you say isn’t necessarily as important as how you say it. In fact, studies have shown that up to 93% of a conversation’s meaning occurs through movement, tone of voice, and eye contact. The words you use are likely the least important part of your conversation with your care recipient.
Use a soothing and calming tone without being patronising, and don’t let frustration show in the way that you’re speaking. It can be hard to repeat the same thing a number of times if you’re talking to someone with dementia or someone who is hard of hearing, but patience is critical to enabling them to feel safe, secure, and understood.
Talking more slowly can help someone to take in what you’re saying at a more comfortable pace, but remember that there’s a fine line between slowing down just enough and too much. Gauge your listener’s reactions to assess if you’re talking too fast, slow, or just right.
Think About Where You Sit
Conversation will be most successful where there are few distractions. Loud rooms are not ideal for a chat with an elderly or disabled person. You also need to be comfortable, and to ensure that the person that you’re talking to has a clear view of your face.
Be aware if someone needs extra help to hear you. Room loop systems and portable induction loops may help those with hearing aids hear better. Clip-on hearing amplifiers can help those with hearing loss to hear what you’re saying.
How to Conduct a Conversation
Visual cues, such as a nod or shake of the head, can help someone to understand you better and to follow your conversation even if they’re not hanging on to every word. If you’re saying ‘yes’, nod at the same time to reinforce the message. Don’t forget to smile!
When the other person is talking, it’s best not to interrupt. Suggest a word if one doesn’t come to mind for them, but be sure to watch for their reaction and only to do the same again if they look grateful for the help. Remember that some people value your input and others would rather keep going at their own pace until that missing word comes to mind!
Limit Their Options
If you’re asking a question, try to keep it as closed as possible unless you’re asking one to elaborate on his/her feelings. A limited number of options are often easier to deal with than a wider selection. Two or three questions can be better than one, if they’ll help to narrow down choices.
Instead of asking ‘How do you like your tea?’ ask ‘Do you want milk in your tea?’ followed by ‘Do you want sugar in your tea?’ and, if relevant, a further ‘How many sugars would you like in your tea?’
Three questions might be easier for someone to process than one, open-ended question that could have a much wider range of answers.
Always Be Aware
No two people are the same. The key to successful conversation is constant evaluation and so it’s important never to assume that you’re doing things right.
Keep an eye on the person that you’re talking to, monitoring their reactions as the conversation progresses, and be prepared to make changes if anything makes them look uncomfortable.
Andrew Atkinson is a director of the Mobility Smart team, a UK-based online retailer of mobility and other assisted products. Andrew’s passion is mobility products and he’s written numerous articles offering advice on how to make living easier.
(This article has been edited, yet retains most English – UK – spelling and punctuation conventions. TCV Ed.)