As I am sure you know, communication can be defined as the process in which we exchange information with other people. Communication is at its most basic form, the process of sending and receiving messages. People also communicate with symbols and signs – such as words pictures, diagrams and drawings. People also communicate non-verbally via their actions and behavior.
As a home health aide, effective communication is a very important part of your daily job. HHAs are required to communicate with many different care team members such as supervisors, care team members, family members and most importantly, the client. A client’s health and their care will depend on how effectively you are able to communicate your concerns and observations to your supervisor. This communication makes adjustments to the care plan possible. Communication skills are also a necessary mechanism to properly deal with stressful and confusing situations.
Unfortunately, not all communication is good. Sometimes you will find clients to be combative. That is to say, clients may at times act hostile or even violently in their words and actions. This type of combative behavior may include acts like hitting, kicking or pushing, and may also include verbal (non physical) attacks. This behavior can be a result of varied factors. One reason for this hostile behavior can be tied to a disease or illness affects the client’s brain causing them to lash out. Other times, it is just the pure frustration of their situation that has them acting out. And of course, sometimes it just comes down to the clients personality. Regardless of the cause, aggressive and combative behavior is not generally a reaction to you or the quality of your care. Do not take it personally and remember to be professional at all times.
Part of being professional and a good communicator in combative situations is making sure to report these acts and actions. Combative behavior or words need to be documented and reporter to your supervisor. Even if you do not find the behavior troublesome or bothersome personally, the general care team needs to be made aware of it. If this sort of behavior does bother you – and it will bother most – there are some ways to deal and cope with it:
- Block physical blows or avoid them by stepping out of the line of attack – but never hit or push back.
- If you can safely exit the situation, often times it is best to just leave the client alone.
- Do not respond to verbal attacks.
- Once you have safely exited the situation, take a minute to consider and try to understand what has provoked the client.
- Make sure to report this inappropriate behavior to your supervisor.
Barriers To Communication For Home Health Aides
Communication can be a delicate thing – there are many ways we can see good communication blocked or disrupted. Here are some common communication barriers and ways you can avoid them:
Situation: The client does not hear you, hear properly or does not understand you.
How To Avoid: Make sure to stand directly in front and facing the client. When speaking, attempt to pronounce your words clearly and slower than you might with your own family or friends. Remember to speak clearly and in a pleasant voice.
Situation: The client is difficult to understand.
How To Avoid: Remember to always be patient and truly listen to the client. It may help to ask the client to repeat or further explain anything that you are not able to understand. Once you have a grasp of what the client is trying to communicate, go ahead and rephrase the message in your own words to the client to make sure you truly understand what they are saying or otherwise communicating.
Situation: The concept or thought being communicated uses words that the receiving party does not understand.
How To Avoid: Make sure you are not using medical terminology with your clients. Speak in simpler, common words that you use in everyday speech. Don’t be afraid to ask what a word means if you are unsure.
Situation: The message contains unknown slang terms.
How To Avoid: As a home health aide, we need to avoid slang. It is unprofessional and confusing to clients just as a client’s slang may be confusing to us.
Situation: Using cliches in your message.
How To Avoid: In the english language, cliches tend to be overused which causes them to be less meaningful than we intend. It is often best to just stay away from cliches when communicating with clients.
Situation: You ask the question “why” and the client becomes defensive.
How To Avoid: When we respond to a client’s statement by asking “why”, depending on the situation, this may cause them to become defensive or combative. It is best to avoid asking “Why” when the client makes a statement unless we truly need a clarification or further information.
Situation: The HHA is put in a position to give advice.
How To Avoid: As a home health aide, giving personal advice is unprofessional and inappropriate. It is ok to give medical advice that is congruous with the care plan, but for topics outside of the client and their health care, you should not offer your personal opinion.
Situation: Your nonverbal communication changes your verbal message.
How To Avoid: This one is tricky, but basically, just make sure to consider your body language and gestures as you are speaking. Your body language should match the message you are speaking.
Situation: There is a language barrier between the client and yourself.
How To Avoid: We should do our best to avoid situations where a language barrier will make communication difficult, but if we find ourselves in such a situation, you should try to communicate with gestures and pictures. It may be easier than you think.