In order to provide consumers with the best care possible, it’s important to build positive relationships based on mutual trust and respect. This allows for consumers to accept our leadership in guiding them through the programs at WesCare, which are designed to help empower consumers in managing their lives and living as independently as possible. One way to shape such rapport is by minding the way we speak with our consumers.
By engaging in clear and compassionate communication, we’re conveying that we recognize and affirm them as competent and capable people deserving of decency and respect, just as anyone else in society.
While on occasion, some consumers may present challenging behaviors which can prove difficult to engage; this does not negate the fact that consumers are humans who sometimes have tough days. It is a part of our jobs as human services professionals to handle these situations in ways that help the consumer both manage their behavior in compliance with their own personal goals and the rules of the home, and maintain their dignity.
There are several etiquette guidelines to remember when communicating with consumers.
Just as you would with family, friends, and co-workers, acknowledge the presence of your consumers when you see them. Whether they are verbal or not, greet them as you would anyone else. At the very least, say hello. From there you can also extend well wishes for their day and engage in conversation
Remember to Ask
Before helping a consumer with a task, whether that’s assisting with personal grooming, lifting and transporting them in and out of bed or a vehicle, or bringing something down for them from a shelf, ask first if they need the help.
They may prefer to take care of the task independently, may not yet be ready for the action to take place, or feel there’s another option available that they’d like to attempt. Ask if you can assist and wait for a response. Show that you respect their feelings, preferences, and autonomy.
Respect Personal Space
If a consumer uses a wheelchair, walker, crutch, cane, or another device, resist grabbing or leaning on it. For some, such aids are considered a part of the consumer’s body. Touching or leaning on them then, without permission, may be viewed as invading their personal space and considered insensitive and rude. If you’re providing them care and it’s necessary to push their wheelchair, share with them first what it is you’re about to do.
When addressing consumers, focus your attention on and talk directly to them, not their guardian, interpreter, or other staff member present. Do not speak condescendingly or disparagingly. When necessary, adjust your volume, speed, and nature of your words to help your consumer understand you. Face them and use eye contact as you speak.
Listen to your consumer when they are talking and allow them time to complete their thoughts before preparing and delivering a response. Do not rush them or cut them off. Ask questions for clarity when necessary and respond once you understand what’s being asked.