Communication is and will always be, an integral part of everyday life. Good communication can positively impact relationships, while bad communication can absolutely destroy relationships. Positive resident-centred communication with those in aged care is especially important. Residents who can positively communicate with their loved ones are able to maintain their dignity and self-esteem, and they experience lower stress levels.

Not only does positive communication benefit the patients, but research has shown that improving resident communication can also increase an aged care organisation’s market share, enhance employee morale, promote cost-effective care, increase consumer loyalty and public image, and strengthen the organisation’s commitment to its mission.

Read on to see what the barriers to positive communication may be, and to see tips for improving communication with those in care.

Barriers for positive communication with those in care

  • Stress and elevated negative emotion

When stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, it can be hard to think straight and make good decisions. You are also likely to misread other people and send non-verbal cues.

  • Lack of focus

When multi-tasking, it can be hard to focus completely. If you’re thinking about what you are going to say next, daydreaming, checking emails or texts, you are missing out on nonverbal cues in the conversation. For truly positive communication, you need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience.

  • Negative or inconsistent body language

It can be extremely confusing, especially for seniors, when you say one thing, but your body language conveys something else. This may make whoever you are talking to feel like you are being dishonest or hiding something from them. Crossing arms, avoiding eye contact, and tapping fingers or toes are all negative body language that send negative signals, and will make whoever you are talking to become defensive.

Tips for improving communication with those in care

Improved communication with seniors and their loved ones can positively impact both person’s lives. It’s important for loved ones to calm themselves, be prepared to only focus on the conversation, and remind themselves to only exhibit positive body language before speaking to loved ones in aged care.

Below are 4 tips to improve positive communication skills.

  1. Learn how to be an engaged listener. It is hard to remember that effective communication is less about talking, and more about listening. If you would like to fully understand and connect with your loved one, you should show interest in what they are saying, do not interrupt or redirect the conversation, set aside judgement, and focus completely on them, no multi-tasking allowed.
  2. Pay attention to nonverbal signals. Facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, muscle tension and even your breathing tells the other person more about how you are feeling than words alone ever can. Try to use open body language, for example, uncrossed arms, sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact. Remember that the face is the most essential communication tool, especially for loved ones that suffer from hearing loss. For elderly who are dementia patients, simply touching their arm or holding their hand can assure them that you care about them and that they are in a safe place.
  3. Calm down/keep stress in check. Collect yourself before calling or visiting your loved one in aged care. If you do become stressed while conversing with them, here are some tips to lower stress. Give yourself time to think, perhaps ask the person for clarification or to have the question repeated. Pause. You may think that pauses are awkward, but a little silence is not a bad thing. Take a pause and think about what you want to say.
  4. Be direct. Being direct eliminates the chances of confusion, and if you are direct, the other person is more likely to be direct, resulting in open and honest communication. To be direct in conversation, remember to value your own opinions, express your negative thoughts in a positive way, and be okay with saying “no.” When speaking to a loved one who suffers from dementia, it is critical to remember to keep sentences short and simple, and focus on one idea at a time.

At Aged Care Channel, we are passionate about supporting the outstanding care of older people and the people who care for them. For more tips on how to improve communication with those in care, contact us.