Did you ever walk into work or a get-together with friends and have someone say to you with great concern, “You look so tired! Are you feeling OK!” Although you may have been feeling perfectly fine until that moment, you may suddenly feel exhausted and worn out. The words we say to each other and the manner in which we interpret them are powerful. And when talking to someone with a chronic health condition, it’s important to carefully think through what to say, and even more importantly, what NOT to say, to help the person feel their best.
While we are no doubt well meaning, there are certain comments that are better left unsaid. Blurting out an insensitive remark, according to Mindy Beth Lipson, a Phoenix psychologist, happens because, “I think people are just scared and nervous and don’t know how to respond. There might be several reasons, the first being it brings up their own mortality. Some people also just lack empathy.”
The following caregiver communication tips will help you know which comments are best avoided:
- “My friend had that same condition and felt terrible for months.” Sharing negative stories about someone you know with a similar diagnosis is a surefire way to bring the person’s spirits down. Instead, keep in mind that each person deals with health conditions in different ways, and focus on the positives the person you’re speaking to has achieved.
- “If you had quit smoking (or stayed more active; or followed a healthier diet; etc.) this could have been avoided.” It’s impossible to know if the result may have been different if healthier choices had been made, and there’s no gain to be made in playing the “what if” card. Rather, place your attention on offering the support and empathy the person needs today, and leave any judgmental comments at the door.
- “Remember when…?” Especially related to someone with dementia or another type of cognitive impairment, memory prompts like this can add to the frustration and agitation already experienced. Recalling stories from the past as if they’re brand-new is a wonderful way to engage the person instead.
Your best bet is always to allow the person the opportunity to discuss (or not to discuss) their experiences and thoughts, hold their hand if it is welcomed, share a bouquet of flowers or other small gift or treat, and simply provide your kind, loving presence and encouragement.
For more care tips, and for hands-on assistance with home care in Walnut Creek, CA or the surrounding areas, call on Hillendale Home Care. We’re here with the expert, caring assistance seniors need to feel more comfortable through companionship, help with meals and housework, transportation to doctors’ appointments and procedures, running errands, and more. Contact us any time at 925-933-8181 to learn more.