A change in communication style could enable frontline care workers to implement person-centred and wellness approaches with clients, says sector trainer
Lindsay Tighe has a simple message for Australia’s aged care workers: stop telling clients what to do, ask them better questions, and listen to what they say.
Community care managers and frontline workers need to examine how they communicate with clients, which has traditionally been driven by a paternalistic approach in the sector.
“We typically spend too much time telling others what to do and unknowingly prevent them from being resourceful,” said Ms Tighe, an author and coach who works with various aged care and disability services.
By enabling aged care workers to recognise when and how to ask questions, as opposed to giving advice, they will be able to practice a more person-centred approach and support CDC, as well as the wellness and reablement approaches that are now expected of community aged care organisations since 1 July.
In a breakfast session at the upcoming Active Ageing Conference 2015 Ms Tighe will share simple but effective communication strategies for staff to use with clients to help them tap into their resourcefulness.
The one-day conference is being hosted by Australian Ageing Agenda and Community Care Review to support community aged care providers in meeting their new requirements in wellness, reablement and restorative care. (Access the full program here).
Ms Tighe said that one of the most fundamental strategies care workers can use is to be a better listener. “We often listen with the intent to reply instead of with the intent to understand, and so we jump in and start offering advice and switch the focus to ourselves. When a client knows that you are focused on them, have the intention to hear them and are giving them permission to think for themselves, they will start to be more resourceful,” she said.
Why we start telling, rather than asking
There were several reasons why care workers tended to tell clients what to do instead of asking them questions, said Ms Tighe.
“We believe that our telling approach is helpful,” she said. “Often this isn’t the case and it can be quite confronting to identify the negative consequences of this unconscious style of communication.”
Care workers also typically perceived the telling approach to be quicker and easier, she said. “Whilst I do not disagree with this perception entirely I know that we use time as an excuse too quickly not to try to do something different. Also, in the longer run we can actually save ourselves time by asking as we will get a better understanding of the situation; have clients who are more empowered and less dependent, which all lead to better outcomes.”
Asking the right questions
Ms Tighe’s workshop will encourage community care workers to recognise when and how to ask questions as opposed to advice giving, in order to support a CDC and wellness approach.
She said that questions enabled thought and “our thinking is driving our lives.”
Questions also enabled much more than simply providing information to the client, she said. “A question enables a person to be heard and understood, it also makes them feel respected, builds confidence, enables new ideas, taps into resourcefulness and wisdom. By enabling the person to find their own answers, you are empowering them and enabling them to be more engaged, motivated and responsible for the decisions made.”
Discussing what questions were the right ones to ask, Ms Tighe advised care workers to ask more open-ended questions, and that “the clue to the next best question is in the answer the other person just gave you.”
Ms Tighe is passionate about the impact that a change in communication can bring. Care workers had shared with her stories of where clients had become motivated, either because they had been empowered to make their own decision or were enabled to come up with a new idea because they were asked a better question, she said.
“I also hear about how better outcomes have been achieved in terms of care plans better reflecting clients’ needs, and also in terms of improved health and wellbeing through being more actively involved in decisions and personalised strategies and approaches being taken,” said Ms Tighe.
Lindsay Tighe will deliver the ‘Asking Better Questions’ breakfast session at the one-day Active Ageing Conference 2015, which takes place on 29 October at the Amora Hotel, Sydney. Full details available here