How to Improve Communication with Your Care Recipient – Tips for Caregivers

While caring for your care recipient, misunderstandings or disagreements between the two of you is likely to arise. Your care recipient may be feeling hopelessness, loss of control, confusion and [...]

While caring for your care recipient, misunderstandings or disagreements between the two of you is likely to arise. Your care recipient may be feeling hopelessness, loss of control, confusion and other negative feelings which may affect their communication with you.  Here are some communication tips which, in the long run, may help reduce conflicts and help you to understand your care recipient better.


Be an active listener

  • Pay attention: Sit up, adopt an open posture and lean forward, maintain eye contact and be relaxed
  • Show that you are listening: Ask questions to explore the topic further. This encourages your care recipient to tell you more
  • Allow them to finish stating their point first before you respond
  • Be open, honest and respectful


Resolving a conflict

Step 1: Take time to relax and clear your mind
Talking right after an argument may worsen the conflict. Take some time to cool down and compose yourself first.

Step 2: Discuss at an appropriate venue and time

Step 3: State your concerns about the issue and how it affects you
This gives your care recipient insight to where you are coming from. Avoid making personal attacks and “you always” statements.

Step 4: Let your care recipient have their say

Step 5: Practice effective listening

Step 6: Ask open-ended questions to explore their knowledge, opinion or feelings
Open-ended questions usually begins with ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’

Step 7: Brainstorm solutions
Give recommendations on how to improve yourself and your care recipient’s behaviour

Step 8: Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict
Actions speak louder than words! Take action and change! If conflict persists, try getting an opinion from a third party to mediate the tension.


What to do when your care recipient is feeling down?

Step 1: Observe their actions and behaviours
Inform a professional if they are doing dangerous acts such as self-harm.

Step 2: Ask them what the issue is
If they don’t feel like sharing, ask how you can help them feel better. You can always ask them again once they feel comfortable to share.

Step 3: Listen and empathise
Affirm that their feelings are valid. For example you could say, “it is all right to feel this way,”.

Step 4: Fill them with comforting words
Reassure your care recipient that you will be there for them in times of need. Give them a hug them if it is appropriate.


Don’t withhold, be bold
Sometimes, your care recipient may find it hard to understand your feelings and needs. How do you express yourself such that you receive empathy from them? Try these three pointers to help get your message across:

Feelings: “I feel ____________”
Wants/ Needs: “I want ___________”
Reach out: “Can you help me?”

It is important that you are not dealing with situations alone. Effective communication with all parties involved is important too.


Family meetings
Family members need to work together to make decisions. With more family members available to care, the burden of caregiving on you will lessen.

  • Before the meeting: Set a date, venue and agenda
  • During the meeting: Make sure everyone is heard, and stay respectful. Avoid any conflicts and end on a good note. Ensure all is on the same page.
  • After the meeting: Update those absent, and schedule a next meeting if needed.


Communicating with professionals

  • Prepare a list of question you wish to ask.
  • Prioritise the more important questions.
  • Clarify if you are unsure of anything.
  • Ask for additional written materials such as booklets or brochures if you need them.


Effective communication is key in building and improving the relationship between you and your care recipient to ensure their satisfaction, enhance their adherence to medical regimes and improve clinical outcomes. This would in turn build a better quality of life for both you, a caregiver, and your care recipient.



The ABCs of Caregiving: A Guide, The Bridging Point, Social Work Final Year Project by students from Nanyang Polytechnic