Sometimes Indirect Communication Is the Best Option

December 30, 2013
Home caregivers sometimes must communicate indirectly with loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Ian MacKenzie)

Home caregivers sometimes must communicate indirectly with loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Ian MacKenzie)

All home caregivers go through periods when those they tend to can be a tad uncommunicative. Every relationship is different, and every relationship goes through phases and stages, so for many this is not much of an issue; however, for some home caregivers, such communication issues can present major challenges.

While direct, open communication is often the best policy, there are definitely situations in which an indirect approach may pay off more quickly and may cause less tension. Here are a few situations in which it may pay to try an indirect way of talking about a subject.

  • You know that the subject is likely to be difficult or painful. This often is the case when the subject in question deals with a delicate health situation. For example, perhaps you are aware that Father has experienced a few bouts of urinary incontinence recently, although he has not acknowledged this to you. Rather than bringing the issue up directly, perhaps it’s better to talk about a “friend” who is experiencing this problem. You can then talk about ways that the “friend” went about treating this problem; if Father takes the bait and confesses that he is having troubles in this area, you can communicate more openly. If he doesn’t, you might still have laid the groundwork for him to bring this up with his doctor or have paved the way for yourself to be able to discreetly leave a box of adult incontinence–ready underwear in his room.
  • You’ve already discussed this subject and you know your loved one has definite opinions about it. Perhaps Mom absolutely refuses to get tested for a hearing aid, and that’s all there is to it. Fine. That doesn’t prevent you from talking about how Aunt Loretta is able to enjoy those audiobooks now that she has a hearing aid, or how Miss Sanders’ hearing aid was so well hidden that you couldn’t see a sign of it.
  • You’re wanting to “test the waters” about an idea of which you yourself are unsure. Perhaps you are thinking about the possibility of moving, but it’s really just an idea at the moment. Talk with Grandpa about that friend of his that moved last year and ask how he likes his new place. Ask Grandma if she remembers that trip she made to Florida some years ago and what she thought of the area. You can lead the conversation into topics that let you know a little about how your loved one would feel about a move; this may help to inform your own decision.
  • You have some bad news and aren’t sure if you should share it. Perhaps Cousin Lettie has been put in jail for a minor offense. Grandmother has always been very fond of Lettie: is this information she should have, or will it upset her? Perhaps broach the subject by talking about her friend Laura, whose granddaughter was caught shoplifting. By steering the conversation this way, you can find out whether your own grandmother would want to hear this kind of news.

Home caregivers often must tread a careful line between not providing enough information and providing too much information; judiciously using indirect communication can help.

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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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