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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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4 Ways to communicate better

You may find it easy to understand some of the people you care for but you struggle to understand others. This can be very frustrating and lead to behaviour that you find difficult to deal with. Imagine how it must feel to be trying to tell people what you want or how you feel, and everyone seems to be getting it wrong. It can also prove stressful for carers when they have to pass on sensitive or upsetting information and the person they are caring for doesn’t understand them.

Look at this video on non-verbal communication [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] [Transcript]. Communication is vital to our well-being and quality of life. As noted by East Sussex Total Communication (2009), ‘it impacts on our relationships, choice, control, emotions, self-esteem and self-expression’.

Imagine that you have a very limited understanding of speech and you are unable to express your feelings. The people around you don’t understand you. Imagine that you keep trying to communicate in your own way but they just keep on speaking to you.

You don’t make a fuss so they sit you in a chair in the lounge all day, every day and they think you are happy to sit there because you don’t make a fuss.

Imagine that you try a different way of communicating and then they say you are too challenging to take out. So now you sit in your chair in the lounge all day, every day.

(Source: Total Communication Film (2009), presented in Total Communication Resource Pack)

It is essential that we have a method of communication; an opportunity to communicate and a subject to communicate about.

In order to make communication accessible to everyone, you need to use all the methods available to you to give and receive information.

Aids to communication include gestures, body language, signs, symbols, photographs, objects of reference and electronic aids. All these can be used to support speech or as an alternative to speech.

One really important point that we can all put into practice is to give people time to process information. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities or just a difficult environment, if you are looking for a response try to count for 20–30 seconds in your head before speaking again or repeating the question. Every time you speak the person has to start the process of formulating an answer again (and again, and again!), which can be frustrating for both parties.