Caregiving- Team Communication
Summary: Caregiving requires an enormous amount of steady, regular, and open communication. This can be complicated when you have multiple people stepping in to care for, and be updated on, the patient. Here you can learn about communication and why it is so vital in the caregiving situation, along with the different types of communicators you may run into. Plus, take away some tips to use within your own relationships and situations!
In most caregiving situations, one person is designated the primary caregiver, and many other able-bodies individuals offer up their time on an as needed, or as scheduled basis. Studies done on these types of situations show that one person is often the “go to” for all aspects of communication about the situation and patient. This person may be responsible for keeping everyone in the “loop” and up to date on the happenings with the patient’s medical care. The “go to” communicator can be anyone, but this person must have certain character traits to make it truly work.
The communicator must be organized, have experience with caregiving, be able to focus solely on others, and have an out-going, people-oriented personality. They must also pay great attention to detail and be able to keep track of multiple topics at once.
The main caregiver and the communicator should be two different roles, if possible. Many times, when the main caregiver is tasked with being the “go to” who updates the patients’ family and friends, they put that task off and forget. There are so many different ways to communicate in this day and age, sometimes even a brief text message update is all people will need. Others will still prefer a phone call, written message, or to read over the notes the caregiver has taken from the appointments and therapies the patient has had.
First, assign the communicator and discuss amongst the family how much updating and notifying is to be done. Then, decide on the mode of delivery; remembering that not everyone will have the same choice. Consider these options for methods of delivery:
- Phone Tree. Start the chain on the tree by calling the first person on the list. That first person is to then call the next person on the list, and this repeats until everyone on the list is called. While this list will need organized at the start, it is reasonably stress free once created. This method is handy for the caregiver who doubles as the communicator.
- Text messaging. This quick and simple method can be a speedy tool in updating people on the situation. With today’s technology, even sending images like doctor’s notes can be done at the tap of a few keys.
- Email. Using email can be a great way to information people of all of the details who are of any distance away. Email allows the writer to add in as many details and words as they’d like. The receiver can then keep and file the email to revisit at a later date, or for a future discussion about the patient’s treatment or situation.
- Apps & websites. There are numerous apps and websites that now allow instant communication, file sharing, and even some apps that track health and medical information. If all parties in the caregiving group have access to such technology, you should indeed check them out and find the ones that best fit you and your patient’s situation. There are also note taking apps that allow the user to immediately email anything written to others.
Most all caregivers report that at some point in their caregiving journey, communication has lagged or become nonexistent, creating more issues than before. Communication is vital to keeping your team together and working on the same page. For true communication to occur, there must be four main elements. Those elements are:
- A message sender;
- A method of delivery when sending the message (i.e. verbal, nonverbal, written, visual, touch, scent, etc);
- A message receiver; and
- Feedback between the sender and receiver ensuring that the message came through correctly and that both parties have acknowledged and are working towards and mutual understanding.
If any of these elements are not present, true communication will not, can not, occur. We cannot force another to listen to us or communicate with us. We can only offer one side of the communication pathway but cannot force another to meet us and give anything in return. As an example, some caregivers report attempting to communicate with family members, but failing due to no response. The emails and text updates are being sent, but no one is responding. This can feel very defeating for the caregiver or communicator attempting to complete their task. But this type of communication breakdown does not fall on the shoulders of the communicator.
There are different communication styles that people have, and it can be helpful to understand the different characteristics about each type.
- Expressives. These social and spirited beings are all about being accepted in their relationships. They talk and think fast, using big gestures and enthusiasm. They have patience when others stray from the point and use body language to help describe and discuss. These types tend to stay on task and with the big picture. Stay focused and on point with expressives.
- Relaters. The relaters are the peacemakers, calm, considerate and cooperative. They are warm and good listeners. These team players are all about people and relationships. With any relater, take your time, be sincere, empathize, and say thank you.
- Directors. Directors are bold and straightforward, plainspoken and very honest. These confident go-getters have strong, decisive opinions, and see things as right or wrong. Organized and goal-oriented, they can be competitive. With directors, be straightforward and brief.
- Thinkers. Analytical and systematic, thinkers feel connected when they see statistics, facts and data. This type carries many perfectionists, with an intense drive to achieve results. While they are not at all spontaneous, they do respond to planned conversations, less talk, and more action.
Communication Tips & Suggestions
When you communicate with your caregiving team members, you should keep these important tips in mind:
- Identify styles of communication. By recognizing your own communication type and that of your family members and friends, this can help to alleviate miscommunications that might happen.
- Use only “I” statements. Starting any sentence with “you” implies some level of fault. Always begin your thought statements with “I” to reduce this miscommunication. Example, instead of saying “you did that…” try, “I feel sad when I see you not taking your medication like you are supposed to.”
- Listen. You might have heard the saying, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” If you are not a good listener, practice reflective listening. First, listen. Then, paraphrase what you heard and repeat it back to the person. Finally, check in with them to see if the message you heard was correct. After practice, this will come more naturally.
- Notice nonverbal cues and body language. Watch body language of others. This can tell you a lot about their current mood.
- Avoid the drama. Learn to control your reaction to drama and other stressful events. Instead of panicking, stop and breathe for a few moments, gently reflecting on what is happening or has happened.
- Do not judge. Keep your opinions to yourself and stick with the facts when it comes to communicating about caregiving.
By utilizing these tools and suggestions for communication, you can help to maintain the communication within your own caregiving group. If your caregiving group is struggling with communication, consider checking in with our Reclaiming Intimacy. team to get more personalized ideas on how to reconnect and ensure everyone is hearing and saying all of the things they need to.
Goyer, Amy. Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving. 2015.