Good communication is an important part of any relationship. For family members with a loved one living with disabilities, it’s a critical step toward reaching an optimal degree of care. Achieving effective communication between family members and caregivers is essential to the mental and physical well-being of those with intellectual disabilities.
This type of communication can often be stressful and wrought with complications, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve put together several tips to help you communicate with compassion and ease.
Get to know the staff members and general practitioners at the facility where your loved one will be staying. Be present when possible and develop a rapport with the Direct Support Professionals and Case Manager. Putting a face to a name and establishing strong relationships will ensure a more positive experience for everyone involved. Just as it’s easier to go to a close friend or confidant with feedback, forming a personal connection with caregivers will give you the confidence to reach out with questions or concerns.
For daily activities and routine-focused questions, Direct Support Professionals can offer assistance. These caregivers work closely with individuals with intellectual disabilities to help them achieve full lives — empowering them to overcome challenges and attain a level of self-sufficiency. When it comes to assessing, planning, and advocating on behalf of your loved one, a Case Manager is the ideal point-of-contact. They schedule and approve all of the necessary activities and appointments to ensure each individual receives the optimal level of care.
Communication is a two-way street. Be sure to leave room for others to speak and be open to embracing different points of view. This helps to establish trust and ensures you are making the best decisions for your loved one. Here are a few ways to practice active listening:
Part of advocating and caring for someone with intellectual disabilities is being prepared to act on their behalf. This means having proper documentation — such as a living will (or advance healthcare directive), a HIPAA agreement, power of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship agreement — before you need it. For family members, proper documentation eliminates guesswork and protects a patient’s privacy. Contact your lawyer to find out which documents you and your family may need.
In many instances, our loved ones have a lot of help from family and friends. This is great for a lot of reasons; however, having too many people can make communication difficult and confusing. Designate one or two family members to be responsible for communicating with the care facility. In some instances, one person may handle the financial side of care while another individual focuses on care management. These individuals can communicate directly with staff members and Case Managers — relaying all vital information back to the family, as needed.
Making assumptions can create major problems for even the best relationships. It’s especially important to avoid supposition when it comes to communicating on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities. If something seems unclear, ask for clarification and communicate proactively with your caregiver. If your loved one has a specific need, make sure you are communicating those expectations to their individual care providers. For example, if an individual with intellectual disabilities needs to improve in a certain area, consider making a schedule of activities for the caregiver to follow. This will ensure that your loved one receives optimal care and service, while clearly communicating your expectations as their family member and/or guardian.
It’s important to remember that adults with intellectual disabilities are capable of making certain decisions on their own. Providing your loved one with a pre-established level of autonomy allows them to have the dignity and respect they deserve. Be sure to identify these opportunities early on — and provide appropriate guidance as needed — to ensure a healthy relationship moving forward.
Our team at the Baddour Center is committed to providing all of the information you need to care for your family member. We are always available to answer your questions and keep you informed. We also offer an extensive library of resources to help you learn more about intellectual disabilities.
If you’re interested in touring the Baddour Center, contact us today to schedule a tour.
Also, this week is Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. This is a great opportunity to highlight the important work of direct support staff nationwide, but especially those in your life. They are vital to the Baddour Center, and their dedication to people with disabilities is worthy of celebration. If you would like to show appreciation to a Baddour caregiver, please contact us and be sure to follow along on our Facebook page.
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