Communicating is more than just what we say. It is how we say things and what we understand from what is said to us.
Communication comes in different forms, including verbal (spoken), written word, lip reading, sign language and even body language.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to communicate with the people around us, especially if you need to discuss something unpleasant or you are unsure whether the person will understand you.
Carer's tip from Netbuddy
"Often we do so much for people they don't have the need or opportunity to communicate. This is where 'sabotage' can come in. Put toys or important objects in a place where the person needs to ask for them; give a meal with no cutlery (again, so they have to ask). Find ways to manipulate situations to necessitate communication."
Visit Netbuddy to read more carers' tips
Sometimes you may find it difficult to communicate because you are uncomfortable discussing a subject, for example, if you have bottled-up emotions and are stressed. You may not feel like communicating because you're physically unwell yourself.
However, it's important to have someone you can share your troubles with. There are support organisations you can talk to if you don't feel comfortable talking to family or friends. You might also find your local carers' centre helpful – you can find contact details on the directory of carers' local services.
Causes of communication problems
Communication issues might arise from a physical condition such as hearing difficulties or visual impairment, or as a result of a condition affecting the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease or stroke. These communication problems may come on gradually or could happen overnight, leaving you unprepared and unsure how best to communicate with the person.
You should bear in mind that someone who has a physical or mental illness or disability may be affected by your own and other people's reactions to their condition. This could have an impact on their ability to communicate.
If a person's hearing or sight is impaired, body language and tone of voice will become more important. They may also need to learn new skills so they can communicate, such as sign language or lip reading.
If a condition or impairment develops suddenly, you'll need to re-evaluate your methods of communication with that person. It might feel strange at first, but you might need to consider your tone of voice, how quickly you speak, and how you use body language and gestures to emphasise what you are saying. It's a good idea to express this to the person you care for and find out what helps them or makes your communication clearer.
Sources of support
There are many different organisations that help people with communication problems. The Aiding Communication in Education Centre offers help and support for children who have complex physical and communication difficulties, and for their parents, carers or therapists.
The charity I Can works to foster the development of speech, language and communication skills. They have a special focus on children with a communication disability.
Click on the bars below for more detailed information on the communication issues that carers may face, or call the Carers Direct helpline on freephone 0300 123 1053.