How Listening Makes You a Better Caregiver

May 30, 2017

Many medical practitioners and caregivers do their jobs well, that is, if you are referring to assisting in the healing and recovery of the patients. It is the primary goal of their job, and it is what keeps them in demand.

However, a caregiving job doesn’t end with monitoring medication and therapy, and overseeing hygiene and nutrition of their charges. While all these contribute to the well-being of the patient, it is only one part of truly fulfilling their needs. Socialization and regular communication is a critical piece as well and its importance is often overlooked in caregiving arrangements.

Old Age and Loneliness

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that loneliness increases the risk of decline by 59% and even death by 45%. Among the American elderly population, around 43% reported feeling lonely from time to time.

Apparently, regular communication or rather the lack of it greatly affects seniors. T. Byram Karasu, M.D., chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Albert Einstein College of medicine relates that even under the close watch of family caregivers, seniors seldom have the opportunity to participate in deep and engaging communication.

Sometimes, It Only Takes a Listening Ear

Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD, program chairman for Holistic Primary Care’s 6th annual Heal Thy Practice 2015 conference advises to listen more and speak less. He cited his experience in giving five to ten minutes of his time to listening to his patients and letting them tell their stories without interrupting. Many of his patients compliment him for this saying that no one ever gave them the chance to tell their story. Truly listening to a patient and engaging them with questions also allows medical professionals to have a more rounded picture of their patient and potentially gain insight into factors directly impacting their health. This not only helps the patient feel valued, but also allows the physician the ability to develop a more comprehensive and personalized care plan to improve the patient’s quality of life.  

The need for social interaction and conversation goes beyond simply diagnoses and care planning. It’s been shown by countless studies that active social engagement reduces stress and depression and helps improve cognitive function, mental health and the ability to fight certain diseases.  

As a caregiver, it’s imperative to incorporate the social needs of your client into their care plan. Too many feel that their task is to manage their charges and lead them back to health with their smarts and training, but those who pour their heart in their jobs gain not only admiration but also the ability to directly improve the health and wellbeing of your client.

The simple act of genuine listening and engagement can improve life for those who struggle to be heard.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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