Ten Tips to Help Caregivers Field Tough Questions

November is National Family Caregivers Month. As a caregiver, do you know what to say when asked sensitive questions?

Learning how to respond and react properly can give a patient the sense of peace he or she is seeking

When you’re a caregiver for a chronically ill loved one or a healthcare professional working with patients who are chronically ill, you’re likely to hear some pretty difficult questions.

There are few jobs tougher than caring for seriously or chronically ill people. That’s true whether you’re a healthcare professional or the family member of a very sick loved one. But of all the difficult tasks you face—cleaning bedpans, changing sheets, helping patients cope with pain—fielding questions can be the toughest and most intimidating task of all. Questions that fall into this category may include “Am I going home?” (Especially when the answer is “No, nor will things ever be the same again”)…“Will I recover from this condition?”…“And oh, by the way: Is there an afterlife?”

The average person who finds him or herself having to care for a seriously ill family member is at a loss to address sensitive questions about loss of independence or chances of recovery. And despite their extensive clinical training, so are many healthcare professionals. St. John wrote his book to help both populations know what (and what not) to say and do in these and other tough situations.

According to Dr. Walter St. John in his book Solace: How Caregivers and Others Can Relate, Listen, and Respond Effectively to a Chronically Ill Person, here are ten things all caregivers should keep in mind when difficult questions are asked:

(1) Let the care receiver speak.

(2) Know when (and how) to say, “I don’t know.”

(3) Don’t hesitate to call in spiritual help.

(4) Encourage the person to meditate or pray.

(5) Never argue with the person on spiritual matters or try to strong-arm him or her into your way of thinking.

(6) Let the tears flow (the person’s and yours, too).

(7) Resist the urge to spout platitudes.


(8) Don’t offer false hope.

(9) Respond constructively to anger.

(10) Above all, seek to connect heart to heart.


Check back next week for part two.


PVA and PN do not recommend or endorse products or services. This description is for information only.


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