Active Listening is a simple and powerful tool. When you’re with your loved one, repeat words and phrases, even put a hand on a shoulder to say, “We are currently in this moment.”
Genuine listening calls for complete attention.
In my rush to find answers, I actually create distance between us. My mind leaves the conversation to seek the quickest possible fix. (Samples, Daily Comforts for Caregivers, 54)
See your loved one as he or she really is, a spirit having a human experience, not just “someone who is always needing something.” Receive what she says and return it back to her in some form that will be a blessing. This takes practice, and a lot of attention!
Good listening is a skill, good listeners are not born, they are developed. (Where Souls Meet, Woods 26)
Listening is especially good to practice when your loved one is nearing the end of his or her life. The book Final Gifts posits that it is of utmost importance to pay attention to the words, gestures, comments, utterances and indications of those who are nearing the end of their lives. Any and all of these forms of communication serve to inform caregivers as to what their loved one is experiencing or what he or she needs for a peaceful death. The language is often symbolic and may even appear nonsensical, but if carefully attended to, it usually holds the clue to some element that is important.
Quickly paraphrasing some of Final Gifts’ suggestions:
- Pay attention to everything a dying person says. A pen and notebook come in handy to write everything no matter how seemingly insignificant, which at a later time may provide insight.
- Important meanings in any message are possible.
Watch for key signs and gestures.
- Respond to things that you don’t understand with gentle inquiries.
- Pose questions in open-ended encouraging terms.
- Accept and validate what the dying say.
- Don’t argue or challenge.
- The dying may employ images and terms from work or hobbies to convey valuable information. (Callanan 225)
According to Greg Yoder in Companioning the Dying, listening well means exhibiting attending behaviors; such things as making eye contact, keeping an open posture and giving an occasional appropriate touch. Paraphrasing things and reflecting back the emotion of what is behind the words is a wonderful way to connect. Clarify things, make sure you understand, but don’t use euphemisms, offer solutions or give advice. (Yoder 22)
Never miss a good chance to shut up. – Ken AlstadCaregiver Revolution :For families, loved ones and professionals who want to change caregiving into a positive, life affirming experience.