ARTICLES / General / Communication…the Essentials /
By William R. Leahy, M.D.
Talk to your loved one about the care
she is receiving Find out how she
feels about the members of the care team, the care plan,
and how it is being implemented. Ask how she has
responded to treatments and how they have affected the
quality of her life. Find out if there are any needs
that she has that are not being met to her satisfaction.
Make consultation appointments with all of your loved
one’s doctors to find out the details of the care plan.
Get as much information about treatment and expected
outcomes as you can. It is helpful to ask for written
information or even take a tape recorder with you to the
Communication is the process that we use to send and
receive messages and exchange information with other
people. We communicate using signs and symbols,
including words, drawings and pictures, and also by
behavior and gestures. The simplest form of
communication takes place between two people…a sender
and a receiver. These two constantly switch roles as
communication takes place. The next step, providing
feedback, occurs when the receiver repeats or responds
to the sender’s message, letting the sender know that
the message was received and understood. During a
conversation, this three-step process is usually
repeated over and over.
Communication can be either verbal or nonverbal; that
is, with or without words. Nodding your head instead of
saying “yes” is nonverbal communication. The tone or
emphasis we have to words is also nonverbal
Body language is a form of nonverbal communication.
Movements, facial expressions and postures can express
different attitudes or emotions, including sadness,
happiness, anger and pain. Just as when speaking,
we send messages with our body language that other
people receive and interpret.
At times, people send one message verbally and a very
different one nonverbally. Nonverbal communication often
tells us how someone is feeling, despite what he or she
is saying. Your loved one may tell you, “I’m feeling a
little better,” but stay in bed and stare blankly at the
wall. Such nonverbal clues can tell you he may be
depressed. You may need to say something like, “Dad, you
don’t seem to be feeling better. You seem to be feeling
down today.” This could open the door for verbal
communication and allow him to express his feelings, or
at least allow you to acknowledge what he is feeling.