In this section:
> Stress management
> Technology and stress relief
> Less Salt
> Lower cholesterol
> Healthy Snacks
> Be more assertive
> Boost your immune system
> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
> Getting the most from your GP
> Advice on prescribed drugs
> Difficult conversations
> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
Dr Mehmood Syed, Medical Director, Bupa Home Healthcare
Many carers often say they struggle to get support and understanding from family and friends. Others say they are constantly battling to get the support services they need. All this can leave carers feeling abandoned and powerless. If you’re a carer, asking for help when you need it can be hard. Assertiveness is an important communication skill to have, not just for interaction with the person you care for, but so you can communicate properly with doctors, nurses, family and friends.
What does being assertive mean?
Being assertive is all about ‘making sure your voice is heard’ and being able to clearly explain how you feel about something, what you need, or why you feel something should be changed.
Being assertive means:
- Saying ‘yes’ when you want to and ‘no’ when you don’t agree with something or someone (rather than agreeing to something just to please someone else)
- Taking responsibility for yourself and decisions you make – and sticking to them, even if it provokes conflict
- Being able to ask for help and support when you need it
- Being able to say what you think or feel without getting angry
- Standing up to difficult people and being confident about handling conflict if it occurs
- Being able to give and receive feedback, whether it’s positive or negative
Why is being assertive important?
As a carer, you will need to ask for support, advice and help from time to time, as well as make decisions you believe are right. You also need to be able to give clear instructions or relay information to family members that you’ve been given by a doctor or nurse.
Being unable to communicate your needs, feelings or specific information clearly will not only cause you frustration and anger, it may also cause tension between you and the person you are communicating with. For example, you may feel that people aren’t listening to what you are trying to explain to them, which can lead to feelings of anger, stress, isolation and even depression.
How can I be more assertive?
Anyone can become more assertive with a bit of practice. The best place to start is to look closely at how you communicate with other people – for example, your body language when you speak to someone, the way you ask for things or the way you approach a subject that needs discussing.
Your body language makes a big impact on the way other people perceive and treat you. When you have conversations, whether you’re explaining a situation or trying to ask for something to be changed, try standing upright, but at the same time in a relaxed manner, and maintain eye contact with the person throughout.
Clear communication is a fundamental part of assertiveness. Keep conversations clear and specific, and remember that you have choices, so say ‘I could’ or ‘I might’ instead of ‘I must’ or ‘I should’. Also, say ‘no’ – you’re allowed to! And don’t apologise if you have to say no to something. It may not seem it at first, but people will soon recognise this as a strength and respect your assertiveness.
If you’re trying to explain something to someone who doesn’t seem to be listening, or who doesn’t agree with something you feel is important, you could try something called the ‘broken record’ technique. This involves repeating your point over and over again until it’s clear to the other person. It’s important to be polite and calm, but firm with your point and always explain the advantages or benefits of what you are talking about.
Once you begin to identify ways that can help you be more assertive, your confidence and quality of life will improve.
Finding it hard to deal with difficult conversations? Read Dr Graham Stokes top tips.
Produced in collaboration with Bupa’s Health Information Team
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