How good communication enhances care relationships

Support worker and person with disability celebrate video game win in a pink neon-lit gamer room.


How good communication enhances care relationships

Support worker and person with disability celebrate video game win in a pink neon-lit gamer room.


We all know that effective communication is important in life. But in a support relationship, it is crucial.

Good communication between Independent Support Workers, clients and their families is the cornerstone of delivering high quality support.

Let’s delve into why this is, and how you can improve the communication in your own support relationships.

What is good communication?

We all know it when we experience it (and also when we don’t!). Good communication brings with it a sense of clarity and understanding. The lines haven’t been crossed and as such, everyone feels heard.

While effective communication is important in all areas of life, in the context of support relationships, it is especially so.

It helps to:

  • Build trust – being open and transparent helps to build trust and to maintain support expectations. This also fosters continuity of care as clients are more likely to engage support workers they trust and know.
  • Understand needs – when client needs are clearly identified and their disability or medical condition is understood, support workers can deliver bespoke support.
  • Provide emotional support – support workers who listen to their clients have a better understanding of their needs and challenges, enabling them to be empathetic.
  • Identify preferences – clients have different preferences and concerns. When communicated to their support worker, these can be respected. Clients are also able to make more decisions based on what they want which encourages autonomy.
  • Provide safety – accidents and medication mishaps can be avoided when clear instructions and safety protocols are put in place.
  • Work as a team – when clients, support workers, family members, therapists, doctors and others communicate well, everyone is across things.
  • Resolve conflict – support relationships can also experience disagreements and misunderstandings. Being able to work through these with good communication will help resolve them quickly and constructively.

Active and empathetic listening

It’s helpful to remember that good communication is a two-way street. It isn’t just about talking and expressing yourself clearly, it’s also about listening. But listening in a way where you desire understanding. Being attentive and thoughtfully processing what’s been said is what’s called ‘active listening’.

Active listening is important in support relationships and a big component of this is to listen with empathy.

When support workers are able to put themselves in their client’s shoes while listening to them, they are able to form a deeper emotional connection. This helps them to understand their client’s needs better and to provide an additional level of emotional support and encouragement.

So how can you get better at communication in your own support relationships?

Here are some simple tips.

8 ways to boost communication in support relationships

Be clear

simple everyday language that gets your meaning across is the best. Aim for clarity in all forms of communication.

Ask questions

It’s okay to ask your client or support worker questions to be clearer in their communication with you. This is part of active listening and shows your desire for understanding.

Show you're listening

By nodding, responding to questions, making eye contact, being engaged in the conversation and using facial and other expressions which convey understanding and empathy.

Be patient and adaptive

Communication isn’t always easy for some people. For example, a client with dementia will struggle with conversation (depending on advancement). Likewise, a client with hearing impairment might need you to face them as you talk so they can read your lips. A client with autism may need visual aids and so on. Meet your communication partner where they’re at and make adjustments accordingly.

Invite engagement

Ask your client or support worker open-ended questions that encourage them to talk. For example, “Tell me about your family?” is more conducive to conversation than just, “How many kids do you have?”.

Encourage expression

Part of getting to know someone is learning about their opinions, preferences and feelings. Encourage your client to be themselves and respect their individuality.

Develop processes

Having a system in place for recording support notes, documents, medical information and support and transition plans, will help you to share this information with your or your client’s support team in a timely way.

Give feedback

Communication is also about being honest. Constructive feedback where a client tells their support worker what they are doing well, or could work on, will improve overall client satisfaction.
Good communication is paramount in the delivery of high quality support. Upping our communication skills enhances relationships, including that between both clients and their support workers.