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Communicating with the Consumer -
As you have experienced in communicating with anyone, “what you say” and “how you say it” is important to your success as a direct care staff person. Being able to comfortably talk with and listen to consumer opens the door to cooperation and positive relationships.
One critical skill that every direct care staff person needs is the ability to introduce themselves. You will be doing it many times throughout your workday, especially in the first few weeks of work. Here are a few reminders about how to introduce yourself to a resident.
Avoid using terms like “sweetie” or “dear.” The consumer may be offended by these terms. And then are male consumers that may take it personal.
Use a relaxed and friendly tone of voice. This will help relax both you and the consumer. A relaxed tone will increase the consumer’s confidence in your abilities. Keep the volume of your voice at a regular level unless the consumer is having a difficult time hearing you.
Remember that your “body language” will say more than words. Body language is the physical clue that we use often without thinking. Some examples of positive body language are smiling, a touch, nodding and making eye contact with the person who is talking. Examples of body language that express displeasure are frowning, raising an eyebrow and folding our arms over our chest. Body language should match what you are saying. Even people with severe memory problems who have difficulty understanding what you say, can still “read” your body language.
Establish eye contact with the consumer. This means looking at the person/consumer to whom you are talking. Eye contact tells the other person you are listening and that you mean what you are saying. Directly face the consumer when you speak and get to his/her level (if they are sitting, sit down next to them). Keep in mind, however, that some consumers from different cultural backgrounds may interpret direct eye contact differently.
Many older consumers who have difficulty hearing rely on “lip-reading” to understand what others are saying. Never shout; it raises the pitch of your voice. Many older people lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. That is why many older people tell you they can understand a man’s voice better than a woman’s voice.
Listening is extremely important. It is often more important to “zip your lip” and focus on what the consumer is trying to tell you than it is to speak.
Communication is important in all interactions and it is the bridge to learning what a consumer needs and wants. From introductions to day-to-day communication, you will establish a relationship with each consumer. Through communication you can gather information, reassure a consumer, build trust and request assistance.
Never communicate with a consumer on a person level in front of another consumer.