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Submitted by Alicia Cassels, MA
OneOp Caregiving Team-Learning and Engagement Consultant

Families with special health care needs must navigate an ever-changing and complex healthcare landscape as they work to initiate services, connect with providers and deal with sometimes significant waiting periods to access specialty care.  Regardless of skill, existing family responsibilities, or work-related demands, caregivers must often expend a great deal of time and energy in securing and maintaining necessary care for loved ones.

Social workers and other helping professionals are often uniquely poised to serve as effective resources in helping connect families with services they need.  Due to a number of factors, caregivers may be reluctant to seek the support of these helping professionals until their family is struggling or in crisis.  When they do reach out for support, caregivers may not fully communicate their needs due to fear that sharing issues like mental health concerns, marital stress, or substance abuse may carry negative consequences.

For helping professionals, the first meeting with families often sets the stage in building trust and reducing barriers to communication around sensitive topics.  Taking time to incorporate effective trust-building strategies into initial and subsequent meetings is critically important in fostering effective communication.  In the webinar session, Empowering Caregivers and Families, military helping professionals share effective practices for reducing barriers to communication of family needs.  Explore two strategies below.

  1. Communicate respect – The demonstration of mutual respect is critical to building trust with families. It is important to incorporate verbal and non-verbal strategies for communicating respect during initial and subsequent encounters.  Two examples of non-verbal strategies for communicating respect include the use of private meeting space and taking care to begin scheduled meetings with families on time.
  1. Listen without judgment to the family story- During an initial meeting, it is helpful to take the time to learn about family needs and experiences. Taking time to listen without judgment lets families know that you want to understand their experiences and priorities.

To learn more about how to help families communicate sensitive information, view Empowering Caregivers and Families.


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 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on December 23, 2016.