Communication Strategies for Caregivers

October 5, 2012

Communication is an important skill for the family caregiver.  Not only is the caregiver communicating with their aging parents or other loved one, they are tasked with keeping the extended family in the loop with the latest updates about Mom or Dad.  Also, the family caregiver must be very skillful in communicating key information to respite caregivers and healthcare professionals.  Often, the caregiver is stretched for time and does not feel that he or she has the luxury of time to communicate effectively.

Martial Arts

What do martial arts and caregivers have in common? Aikido!

When the stresses of work, caregiving and keeping extended family

members informed collides, a family flare up can occur.  The volatile mix of strong emotions, potent statements, and past accusations may become “fighting words” for some families.  This may be a time to turn to martial arts skills!

What do martial arts and care giving skills have in common? Plenty if you are following the aikido style of communication, which is patterned after the aikido style of martial arts!

The basic tenet behind the aikido method of martial arts is aligning yourself with another person, instead of fighting against that person.   The aikido style of communication means that you are expressing yourself in a less direct method while maintaining a balance.  Aikido communication methods help us to align with the person we are communicating with and build a sense of balance in the conversation.

Two goals in aikido-style communication include:

  • Maintaining your own peace by not giving in to emotion.
  • Helping the other person to maintain equilibrium and peace.

How to communicate following the aikido style:

  • Align with the person you are speaking with so that you may put yourself in his place.  This is an excellent technique when communicating with dementia patients.  An example of initiating a statement is, “If I could do one thing to help you feel better, what would that be?”
  • Agree by looking for areas of common ground where you can agree.  “If that happened to me, I’d be upset, too.”
  • Redirect by focusing the conversation on the your shared concerns or common goals.  “We both want to do what is best.  Now all we have to do is _____.”
  • Resolve by finding a middle ground you can live with and work together on a common concern.  “Maybe we can make an appointment with the doctor and determine the best course of treatment for Mom.”

The aikido method works well in emotionally charged situations with people who are verbally aggressive and is a good method for seeking resolutions for difficult topics.

If you would like more tips on communication strategies for family caregivers, please check out the “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” training courses in your area.

“The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

—  George Bernard Shaw


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