The most important aspect of being a good caregiver, whether you are a family caregiver or a professional caregiver, is being a good listener. Our senior loved ones are all too familiar with the fast-paced medical world where they are hustled in and out the door with a flurry of paperwork and new prescription medications. So, having someone who stops the hustle and bustle and truly listens would be a surprising change of pace.
Listening to your senior loved one communicates the love you have for them and your desire to care for them well. Listening also recognizes the dignity and independence of the senior, giving them the chance to communicate their needs and desires. That may sound easy enough, however, with all the duties and responsibilities you have as a caregiver taking the time to listen can be forgotten.
There are a few simple ways to listen to your senior loved one:
1. Avoid Distractions and Focus on the Senior. Turn off the TV, silence the cell phone, and put down the cleaning supplies. When you are spending time with your senior loved one, sit down with them and take some uninterrupted time to just listen. Don’t make dinner while they talk; don’t dust the living room; simply sit and listen.
2. Good Body Language and Repetition. Good body language goes a long way in communicating care and attention. Be sure to make eye contact, nod your head, and lean forward. Another way that helps you engage your loved one is through repeating what they say. It may seem awkward and forced at first, but repeating what was said helps the senior feel heard and understood, which is the goal of listening.
3. Ask Questions. Ask your senior loved one questions to clarify what they are saying and to expand on the subject. Don’t ask a question off topic, this communicates that you aren’t paying attention. Also, be sure to listen before you ask, many times people become so wrapped up in thinking of questions to ask they miss the answer!
4. Listen without Judgement. This can be very hard, especially if the senior is complaining, but it is crucial to being a good listener. Listening without judgment means you aren’t already forming opinions or preparing your response before the senior finishes speaking.
Taking the time to listen to your loved one communicates how important they are to you. So, slow down this week and listen. You may be surprised by what you learn.
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