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4 quick caregiver tips: effective language while advocating for your loved one

Megane Bantefa | Traumatic brain injury, Stroke

As a caregiver, you might feel pressure always to say the “right” thing when advocating for your loved one. Being a care partner can feel overwhelming; not only do caregivers often need to provide physical support, but they also help to navigate the healthcare system and advocate for their loved one’s needs. It can be a challenging experience for the patient and care partner, but having the right tools can help you both. Using deliberate language to advocate for your loved one can significantly affect their recovery outcomes and your impact. In this blog post, we’ll discuss four tips for using purposeful language when advocating for loved ones.

  1. Be positive. As a caregiver, your energy matters! Amid a recovery journey, it is easy to lose sight of the incremental progress already made. Highlighting that improvement allows you as a caregiver to bring an encouraging perspective. Using positive and motivating language while celebrating small victories promotes confidence and consistency– key factors in the recovery process. When talking to healthcare professionals, focus on what your loved one can do rather than what they can’t do. 
  2. Be specific about your loved one’s needs. Being specific when discussing with or about your loved one can significantly impact the conversation’s outcome. As caregivers, when tracking your loved one’s symptoms and concerns, organize them so that you can discuss them with ease. Using precise language and a structured approach can dial in on recovery goals and help you and your loved one navigate the day-to-day challenges. In practice, this can look like keeping notes in a journal or on your smartphone. This approach often sparks a shift in perspective during difficult moments and enhances the precision and efficacy of your interactions with clinicians regarding your loved one’s care. Greater specificity can also help curb the pervasive healthcare inequities that hinder progress
  3. Use “I” Statements. When speaking to healthcare professionals or others about your loved one, try to speak from your own perspective as a caregiver and not on behalf of your loved one. This practice demonstrates respect for your loved one’s autonomy and personhood. Using “I” statements can also strengthen your rapport with clinicians, cultivating a more fluid relationship.
  4. Emphasize your loved one’s goals. Patient-driven goal-setting empowers your loved one and creates positive momentum toward change. In your language, you can clarify the milestones your loved one wants to reach. Creating realistic targets highlights what is meaningful to your loved one and tailors care accordingly. Emphasizing their priorities can help you and healthcare professionals stay on track and also reiterate their progress. 

Care partners: You’ve got this! 

Feeling unsure of what to say or how to say when caring for a loved one is common and challenging. As best as you can, try not to get discouraged. There is no objectively “right” or “wrong” thing to say in every situation. Our goal is that this article’s strategies help support you in discovering what works best for you as a caregiver. The language you use to advocate for your loved one is a powerful tool that considerably impacts their recovery journey and your relationship. 

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