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Communication…the Essentials

By William R. Leahy, M.D.

(Page 2 of 5)

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 consultation.
 
Communication Basics
 
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 communication.
 
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.

 

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