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  • Writer's pictureNikita Chand

Companionship & Developing Trusting Professional Relationships

Companionship is being just that – a companion! It is one of the most rewarding parts of being a care giver. You will create professional and safe relationships with your patients. The key word is professional, as it can be easy for patients or caregivers to smudge the lines of professional relationships due to the nature of the work you will be providing. Your role is to provide all types of care and support to your patient, including physical, mental and emotional care.

As we have already learned in the last article, one of the risk factors for depression in all populations is social isolation. Social isolation can have devastating effect on a person’s health and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, companionship is one of the most effective ways to prevent and overcome depression. Companionship is encouraged with every interaction with your patient, including when providing personal care.

To provide companionship, start by getting to know who your patient is. Learn what they prefer to be called, what some of their personal history entails such as: what kind of work did they do before retirement, family life, spouses, children. Learn if they have any hobbies or interests – such as walking, reading, playing bridge, cards, bird watching, puzzles, watching movies, listening to music, gardening, coin collection. Encourage them to participate with you in some of the activities and interests that your patient enjoys. This is a great way to get to know someone when you are both having fun! True companionship will require you to be present – this means not being distracted by everything else going on around you or in your personal life. Most people are fairly good at sensing when someone is paying attention to them or if they are distracted. Therefore, keep this in mind when building rapport with you patient. Keep your electronic devices muted and stored away when you are with your patient.

Use active listening when conversing with your patient. Active listening is paramount in creating a long-lasting professional relationship. This shows your patient that you genuinely care for them and are interested in hearing what they have to say. Active listening involves the skills of being present, focusing on your patient when they are speaking, and asking open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions allow the person to continue to express their thoughts to you. Examples of open-ended question are – “Why do you enjoy reading so much?” “What is one of your fondest moments with your children?” What is one of your favorite movies growing up, and why?” As you can see, open-ended questions allow your patient to really think about what your asking, as well as an opportunity to reply with thoughtful responses.

The opposite of open-ended questions are closed-ended questions, which are useful when you are trying to obtain specific information from your patient. Examples of closed-ended questions are – “When is your birthday?” “What is your cat’s name?” Do you like Italian or Greek food?” Quality active listening will also require that you tweak your nonverbal communication – this includes – maintaining gentle eye contact when you are conversing, smiling appropriately, have open body language. This is when you are positioned slightly towards them, even-tone of voice, and use of touch appropriately. Use of touch can convey comfort and trust when used appropriately, such as a gentle hand on the shoulder or a brief warm hug. Apply these skills and techniques to gradually build a trusting professional relationship with your patients.

Never accept any gifts or money from your patients. Tell them thank you for the gesture, but that it is against your policy to accept anything from them. These are just a few tips to get you started on your way to building therapeutic and professional relationships with your patients.

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