The relationship between a caregiver and a client is a delicate one. Clients, especially those that are elderly or have a disability, are putting themselves in an extremely vulnerable position. That is why such a relationship needs to be based on trust.
Trust doesn’t come overnight - establishing it takes time. The way you communicate with your clients plays a crucial role in this process.
Why Is Communication an Important Aspect of Quality Care?
Communication is one of the most important skills of a caregiver. In this line of work, caregivers need to be able to communicate effectively not just with clients, but also with the client’s family members, with the other staff, and with healthcare providers, such as doctors.
The goal of every communication is to accurately convey important information, but when communicating with clients and their families, you must also be able to infuse this communication with empathy and patience. This helps build the trust that is at the core of a caregiving relationship.
How to Establish Trust with Caregiver-Client Relationships?
Building trust is a two-way street, a process in which both the patient and the caregiver have their role to play. Of course, the bulk of the work it takes to build trust is on the caregiver. Let's look at some tips on how you can set a healthy foundation and create a strong relationship with your client.
Respect Their Preferences
The main goal of a caregiver's job is the well being of their client. And while you may think you know what's best for them, insisting on always doing things your way is not productive when you are looking to gain their trust.
They are a person with their own preferences, and an important part of getting them to trust you is to respect their wishes and needs, and treat them with understanding and compassion.
Whenever it is possible, offer them choices. Always keep your promises and stick to agreements.
Over time, a long term caregiver can become an equally important part of a client's daily living as their healthcare team or even family. The role comes with many responsibilities and expectations.
Therefore, a caregiver needs to be someone that a client can rely on.
You should always be on time, and do your job to the best of your ability with patience and calm, even in a crisis.
Be an Attentive Listener
This is important for more than one reason. The first is obvious - when it comes to health, sometimes even things that sound minor can turn out to be important.
Another reason is that emotional support can be a part of caregivers' tasks too. A lot of seniors need someone to spend time with and have a conversation with. It can make a great difference to their quality of life to have someone to talk to about their interests or loved ones, offer advice, or have someone to listen to stories from their youth.
Always listen attentively and take the time to respond in a respectful manner. Being a good listener is a skill that benefits you in all areas of communication, including professional and personal communication.
Always be patient and show respect for the elderly and the experience and wisdom they possess, whether they are offering you advice or telling stories from the past.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Not every person is equally open and honest about their needs. To provide quality care, you need to make it a point to notice even things that aren't mentioned in conversation.
Pay attention to your client's behavior.
They will communicate not only with words, but also with their body language and facial expressions. Some seniors might not want to share the things that affect them because they find it embarrassing or think of it as a sign of weakness.
In those cases you are likely to get a mixed message: verbal communication saying one thing, but non-verbal cues telling a different story.
It is important that you pay close attention to everything they are communicating so that you can ask for clarification when needed and take the necessary next steps to can help your client.
Have a Positive Attitude and Take Care of Your Appearance
Appearance and attitude play an important role in the process of establishing a positive relationship between health caregiver and their patients. After all, they are what your clients base their first impression on.
The three C's that you should always strive for are confidence, caring, and cheerfulness. A sunny disposition and plenty of compassion will help you bond with your client faster.
A neat, professional appearance and good hygiene give the person in your care a feeling of security from knowing that his or her health care is in professional hands.
Use The Reassurance of Touch
The use of touch as an effective tool has been established in many research studies. You should rely on non-threatening and safe ways to employ touch in strengthening your relationship with your patient. A simple pat on the shoulder, touching the client's arm, or holding their hand can go a long way.
Touch can be accompanied by other nonverbal forms of communication, such as a smile, or by verbal communication such as a word or phrase that conveys caring.
Some people are less comfortable being touched. Ask permission before touching residents or clients. Be sensitive to their feelings. In your line of work, you must touch residents as part of your daily tasks.
However, recognize that some people feel more comfortable when there is little physical contact.
Rely on Honest Communication
Honesty is the best policy when you have a patient in home care. Caregivers should always try to find a balance so that they talk to a patient with sensitivity but don't lie or omit important details.
Always tell a patient what is going to happen before it happens, as well as how it benefits their well being. Lying or treating a patient like a child can permanently damage the relationship.
Take Into Consideration Each Client’s Specific Needs
When communicating with the elderly keep noise and distractions to a minimum and use short simple words and sentences. Be sensitive to impairments to such functions as vision, hearing, ambulation, or cognitive decline.
Make sure they are wearing any assistive devices they may need, such as hearing aids or glasses.
How to Build a Trusting Relationship with The Client's Family Members?
Caregivers, especially those working in home care, often have to come into contact with clients' families as well.
When communicating with the loved one of a patient, you should always strive to give them relevant and accurate information. However, make sure to respect the privacy of the person in your care, as well as the privacy of the family.
It's important to know the exact relationship between the patient and the person you are talking to. Is the senior loved one their parent? Their spouse? Not everyone is entitled to information, and you must be careful about what you share and with whom.
What Are The Legal Requirements?
Confidentiality is also a critical part of your job that helps create and establish trust. A caregiver has both an ethical and a legal obligation to keep Protected Health Information (PHI) confidential.
To respect confidentiality means to keep private things private. A caregiver is in a unique position where, during the normal course of their work, they find out a lot of private information about the life of their patients and their families.
Whether it's their health concerns, their feelings, mental health, finances, details from the life of a family member, gossip, or anything else, a caregiver has to protect this information.
Caregivers can only legally discuss PHI if there is something that needs to be shared with the client’s care team, and with the care team alone. If a family member asks about something that should be kept confidential, encourage them to talk with the client instead or address their concerns with their doctor or case manager.
This confidentiality is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a law that guarantees that all health information is private and secure. If a caregiver breaks this law, they can be fined or even imprisoned.
How to Maintain Trust
Once the initial trust bond is established, a caregiver should strive to build upon it in every interaction that follows. Once patients have established expectations about your relationship and your service, don't let them down.
If for some reason you are not able to meet an expectation or fulfill a promise, always communicate openly so you and the client can find a solution together.
Even when their behavior is challenging, try not to take it personally and keep your cool. Always remember that frustration, anger, and other kinds of challenging behavior in patients in home care can be a result of underlying issues such as mental health problems or dementia.
All this and much more is explained in our CE course CE303 - Establishing Trust Through Communication with the Elderly. It is a 2-hour, self-paced online course that is worth 2 Continuing Education credits. Click on the image below to learn more.