Communication Plan

As I reflect on my last post and wonder how we got to where we are with my mother’s illness and corresponding physical decline, my thought or conclusion is that I am not as good a communicator as I think I am. Although I shared a lot of information for elderly adult caregiving, I did not share a lot of “energy or conviction” about the topic at hand.

I am reminded of the sales process where you first identify a problem or need, seek agreement or understanding of the problem/need, identify ways of improving or resolving the problem/need, agree to a plan of action and then implement the plan. Instead, I made an assumption. I believed enough in an observation to research it and share my findings. I assumed that upon receiving this information my brothers and sisters would pick up on its importance and respond with heightened interest and energy.

I was wrong. I should have developed a “sales pitch” that ended with their agreement and a commitment to focus on the idea as well. I probably could have included some form of a follow up plan. That was years ago. Through all of my reading and research, a communication “model” has sort of developed.

Basic points for a communication plan for elderly adult caregiving:

  • Identifying who all of the concerned parties are and what communication techniques will be required to get everyone on the same page.
  • Researching the concern or observation.
  • Starting the conversations early enough so that the situation or need can be resolved before things get too far down the road which will only complicate the resolution process.
  • Starting with the assumption that nobody wants to discuss the topic.
  • Developing a pitch or plan that includes a statement of the problem or need, ways to improve the situation or resolve the problem, an action plan to implement the agreed upon course of action and a follow up plan.
  • Planning and knowing the desired outcome.
  • Understanding that one conversation probably will not get the job done and that there should be an idea about a timeline for action.
  • Being patient and giving everyone involved the chance to digest and understand the situation and related information.
  • Anticipating disagreement and not losing sight of the fact that what is best for your loved one is the primary focus.

The job of managing these conversations and communication is a hard one. Your ability to take competing ideas and thoughts and finding a workable compromise will be most important. Different agendas could be at play. Something that you may find useful is to ask questions that will help everyone in the conversation understand both the topic at hand and the thoughts of the other participants. Remember that every attempt at discussing the topic is important. You will always learn something that may be used in future conversations. The goal of creating a communication plan for elderly adult caregiving is to find a collaborative solution that everyone will agree with and actively help in obtaining the desired outcome.

For additional help, there are several good books in the market that can be useful in learning how to be a better negotiator. Two that come to mind are: How To Win Friends and Influence People by Carnegie and Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury.

We hope you will take some time and look through our podcast resources for more helpful insight and education on caring for your elderly adult loved one.