Delivering bad news is never an easy thing to do. The person delivering the news has no way of knowing how the recipient will receive it. It is a high-anxiety experience for everyone involved. However, there are ways to prepare oneself to deliver bad news to ensure all parties leave the conversation better informed and able to process the news in a healthy fashion. These conversations can be productive, even though they may be extremely difficult. The most important things to keep in mind when approaching a difficult conversation – being prepared, maintaining clear communication, and providing support.
Preparation is key.
If a person is attempting to inform a senior of a death in the family or impending financial troubles, preparation will help to deliver the message smoothly and clearly. Confusion or an inarticulate delivery will make matters worse. Whether it means writing down the details beforehand, or running through a “mock” delivery of the news with a trusted friend, any preparation technique will help to ensure proper delivery of the bad news. Seniors will be comforted and willing to speak candidly about their feelings when the bearer of bad news is calm, collected, and confident.
When the information is conveyed clearly, it reduces the risk of misunderstanding. It’s not about just being straightforward and delivering the facts. It’s about understanding the person who will be receiving the news, and being sympathetic to their feelings. Depending upon the recipient’s emotional health, the bad news can be introduced in a roundabout way to gauge a senior’s readiness to hear the news or it can be delivered directly. Then it is important to understand if the senior will want to discuss the news, or will want to mull it over alone.
Be ready to provide support.
Regardless of the details, the bottom line is this; when the news is important and in this case, negative, a senior will certainly have a reaction. Of course the reaction will differ from person to person. It could be anger, sadness, or simply stoicism. If the senior is suffering from Alzheimer’s, the news may sink in initially, but be forgotten quickly. In order to reduce anxiety and agitation for a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient, it may be appropriate to reassure a senior that their passed loved one is doing well, or to remind them that their loved one is no longer around. When it comes to communicating with a senior suffering with cognitive or memory diseases, there is no right or wrong.
Regardless of the manner in which it’s delivered, the bad news has to be given. By keeping these tips in mind, it can make a tough situation a bit easier to get through. Stay aware of a senior’s feelings, as well as your own, and together the situation can be handled gently and effectively.