Plymouth, New Hampshire
12 Yeaton Rd, Ste B6, Plymouth, NH 03264
(603) 536-6060
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Compassionate Communication Skills

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

A Better Relationship with the Person in Your Care 


By Martha Swats, Owner/Administrator, Comfort Keepers

(New Hampshire, March 2022)  


The stresses of caring for someone can create a buildup of tension, frustration and fatigue. Our conditioning sometimes tells us to blame someone or anyone for how we feel–it’s the “difficult” person in care, the “non-communicative family members” or the “inadequate” health care system. Blame can momentarily relieve some tension, but it also leads to other unpleasant feelings such as anger, resentment and disappointment. 

Practicing compassionate communication like Nonviolent Communication (NVC) instead of blame can bring more understanding and deeper relief. Giving ourselves and others even a few moments of empathy in a difficult situation can increase safety, trust and mental health. 

One way to have more empathy for ourselves and others when we are in emotional pain is to follow the “Observation, Feelings, Needs and Requests” model. Try this next time you have painful feelings, and notice if you experience a shift. 

Observation - When you have uncomfortable feelings like anger, frustration, or sadness, first make an observation about what is stimulating your pain. An observation has no judgment or evaluation in it. It’s something that is so factual that it could be captured by a video camera. For example, “Mary refused to eat her dinner tonight” is not an observation - there’s an evaluation there that Mary is “refusing” something, and that judgmental thought can lead us to feel frustration or resentment. An observation would be, “When I offered Mary her dinner, she did not eat it.” Observations help us get clarity about what really happened versus the story we are telling ourselves. 

Feelings - Next, notice what feelings you are having about this event. Feelings arise in the body, as opposed to thoughts, which are in the head. They only happen inside us - for example, joy, fear, worry or grief. (Watch out for “false feelings,” which are things others are doing to us, like “unappreciated,” “insulted” or “unsupported.”) 

Needs - Needs are values that are universal to all human beings - for example: justice, care, love, health, kindness, support, and cooperation. Sometimes one person isn’t meeting our needs, but we can get the need met somewhere else, because meeting our basic human needs is important! The key is to remember that no one person is responsible for meeting our needs - we can get them met many ways. What are your needs that aren’t being met in this painful situation? Make a list. 

Request - Next, try making a request. A compassionate request is specific and doable, and gives other person involved choice. It is helpful to name our needs when we make the request. For example, “Mary, your health [need] is important to me. I’d like to offer you dinner again in an hour, and I would like to know if you’d be willing to try a few bites then [request]. I could use your support [another need] to make sure your body gets the nutrition it needs.” 

You can practice communicating compassionately with yourself, which is called self-empathy. Acknowledge your feelings and needs in a journal or in a few minutes of reflection. For example, “When Mary did not eat the dinner I offered her [observation], I sure felt frustrated and upset [feelings]. Some support and cooperation [needs] would be really wonderful.” 

Compassionate communication doesn’t “fix” some of the very difficult challenges and realities of being a caregiver, but it does lead to kindness, gentleness, and more resilience when we do this hard work. You might also try making an observation, feeling, needs and request guess for the person in your care or in the care team to better understand them and feel more compassion and connection and less judgment. 

Empathetic compassionate communication is a practice that becomes more natural and automatic the more you do it. Try keeping a journal of your observations, feelings, needs and requests when difficult feelings arise, or find a buddy to practice with.

Communication Is Not Just Speaking As much as 90% of our communication is non-verbal. When the person in your care can no longer communicate with words, you can communicate that you care about him by the tone of your voice. A hug speaks more clearly than words. Music and dancing can also be a kind of communication. People with Alzheimer's may be able to sing a song with you, even though they can no longer speak. Dancing together can communicate your affection for each other.

Comfort Keepers® Can Help
 
At Comfort Keepers®, our professional care team is trained to identify changes in client behavior and report them to the family. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, our caregivers can help them remain safe and comfortable at home, while providing everything from laundry and housekeeping to meal preparation and transportation. Learn more about how we can help seniors and other adult clients by contacting your local Comfort Keepers location today. 

Comfort Keepers is a leader in providing in-home care consisting of such services as companionship, transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing, mobility assistance, nursing services, and a host of additional items all meant to keep seniors living independently worry free in the comfort of their homes. Comfort Keepers have been serving New Hampshire residents since 2005. Let us help you stay independent.

Please call (603) 536-6060 or visit our website at nhcomfortkeepers.com for more information.