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How to Communicate with Senior Housing Staff – Greensboro, NC

- Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Here are four best practices for creating and sustaining a good rapport with senior housing and assisted living staff:

1. Get to Know the Care Team

  • Take the time to learn what roles different staff play and what their specific responsibilities are. Depending on the kind of assisted living care facility, there may be a wide range of staff -- including an administrator, a director of nursing, a social worker, various therapists, an activity coordinator, charge nurses, as well as paraprofessional assistants or aides who provide most of the 'hands-on' care. In addition, different care facilities sometimes use different job titles, so it behooves you to make the effort to understand who is who and who does what. Ask questions and take notes.
  • Identify a primary contact at the facility. If you have a chief contact and advocate for your family member your job will be that much easier. They will often be able to address many of your questions and concerns or, if not, then know where to direct you. The obvious choice is a staff member who has daily contact with your family member and is most apt to develop a genuine relationship with him or her.

2. Use Proven Communication Strategies

Good and respectful communication is essential for working effectively with other people. This is particularly true when you're feeling stressed or tense, which is not uncommon when you're concerned about a loved one in a care facility. Like any relationship this one will be a balance of listening and communicating your needs and observations in a manner that can be heard by the staff. If you're courteous and practice good communication skills, nine times out of ten you'll develop a good rapport.

And, fortunately, good communication skills can be developed by anyone; it's not something you're simply born with. Here are several specific tips you can use to help you become a better communicator:

Ask Questions

Another reason problems sometimes arise is that family members are hesitant to ask questions. Families are afraid to ask questions because they fear it will reflect poorly on their loved one, that their loved one will not get the care they deserve, which, of course, couldn't be farther from the truth. The point is the assisted living home really wants families to ask questions, to become educated about our community, and we create all sorts of opportunities for this to happen, but they often don't take advantage of these opportunities.

Family members should come prepared. Think about what it is you need to know and write down your questions beforehand. Whether you're in a group setting or one-on-one with your primary contact, you're prepared and can then really focus on the information given to you. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Practice Active Listening Techniques

Too often people don't listen closely to what is actually being said to them (especially if the information is difficult to hear). Instead they're distracted with other thoughts or more concerned about what they're going to say next. If, however, you make a conscious effort to listen and try to understand what is being said, you'll be in a much better position to develop a real rapport with that person.

Actively listening involves summarizing what the person just told you so it's clear you understand them, show your comprehension, and help create dialogue. It also means putting yourself in their shoes when trying to hear their point of view.

Avoid Communication Stoppers

Most of us already know this, but there are a number of things you simply should avoid saying. These include angry name calling and giving unheeded advice. Instead, frame your concerns with non-threatening phrases like "it concerns me..." or "I understand what you're saying..." or "what if we tried a different approach..."

3. Help Staff Get to Know Your Loved One

Many senior care professionals say that one of the most satisfying aspects of their job is the relationships they develop with the residents in their care. It's very common to hear aides and other staff refer to many of their longer term residents as "family" or a special resident as being "like a grandmother." And for family members this, of course, is what you want to hear -- to know your loved one is cared for by people who know and love them for who they are.

You can help foster this kind of environment by helping the staff get to know your loved one.

4. Show Your Appreciation

And finally, as you get to know the staff and see how they care for your loved one, take a moment to show your appreciation. Send a "thank you" card or drop off some treats at the nurse's station. What you do is not so important; the fact you made the effort is. A little gesture can go a long way to bring smiles to people's faces. Care professionals, like everyone else, love it when their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

For more information on assisted living and senior care, contact Spring Arbor.

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Excerpts - care.com